Central Kentucky farmer admits taking part in $480,000 crop fraud

A Central Kentucky farmer has admitted taking part in crop-insurance fraud totaling $480,000.

Keith A. Foley, who grew tobacco in Bourbon and Jessamine counties, pleaded guilty in federal court in Lexington on Monday to a charge of conspiring to file false claims on crop-insurance policies, according to a court record.

Foley claimed that he grew less tobacco than he actually produced in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2015 so that he could get an insurance payment based on the lower yield, according to his plea agreement.

He sold some tobacco under other people’s names as part of the conspiracy, the agreement said.

Under separate hail policies, Foley also submitted false reports on damage to his tobacco crops in order to justify insurance claims.

A crop adjuster identified only by his initials. M.M., took part in submitting the false reports, according to the court document.

In 2014 and 2015, Foley agreed to pay M.M., who had become an insurance agent, part of what he got through fraudulent claims, Foley said in his plea.

M.M., with the help of unnamed adjusters, submitted a photo of damage to Foley’s crop that had already been submitted in insurance claims by other farmers, according to a court record.

The conspiracy charge has a top sentence of five years. Foley is to be sentenced in October.

The charge against Foley indicates the government will try to recoup the money Foley received through fraud.

Authorities have charged several people with crop-insurance fraud in Central Kentucky in recent years.

They include Bourbon County farmer Ronnie Jolly, who faces sentencing in September on charges from an indictment alleging he grossed $2.6 million through fraudulent claims; and four men who farmed in Bourbon and Nicholas counties, who face trial in September.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood sentenced Debra Muse, a Fleming County woman who sold crop insurance and worked at a tobacco warehouse, to five years in prison.

Prosecutors argued that Muse falsified reports that caused the federal government to pay nearly $6 million in undeserved claims to farmers.