Pfaff’s crop insurance fraud trial delayed by 6 months – Agweek

BISMARCK, ND — A federal judge has granted a six-month stay in the jury trial of a Washburn, North Dakota farmer accused of giving false information to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials for a crop insurance compensation.

Kent S. Pfaff pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is now due to stand trial on October 18, 2022.

Farmer Kent Pfaff of Washburn, North Dakota leaves the federal courthouse in Bismarck, North Dakota on March 3, 2022, following his arraignment in a federal insurance fraud case. harvest. A trial date was set for the end of April, but has now been postponed six months to October 18, 2022 in Bismarck.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

On February 2, 2022, a federal grand jury indicted Pfaff for acts he allegedly committed from January 1, 2017 to June 1, 2022. So far, Pfaff has only had the opportunity to plead not guilty.

On March 23, 2022, Judge Daniel L. Hovland agreed to “continue” or delay a trial by three days from his original schedule, which was to be April 19, 2022.

If convicted, Pfaff faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines and five years of probation. Pfaff and his wife, Rhonda, operate a farm with sons, Stephen and Zachary, and family friend, Chris Stork.

Kent Pfaff walks out of the federal courthouse in Bismarck, ND, led by his legal team.
Farmer Kent Pfaff of Washburn, North Dakota, center, leaves the federal courthouse in Bismarck, North Dakota, March 3, 2022. His attorney, Gary R. Leistico, Pfaff’s of St. Cloud, Minnesota, asked successfully sentenced to a six-month delay in the trial, now scheduled for October 18, 2022, in Bismarck.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Gary R. Leistico, Pfaff’s attorney of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Chase and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan J. O’Konek, agreed that the evidence for the allegations is ” particularly complex”, given that they already have 14,000 discovery pages to provide to the accused “and audio files”.

On March 3, 2022, Federal Magistrate Judge Clare R. Hochhalter allowed Pfaff, who operates a farm in the Falkirk area of ​​North Dakota, to remain free on his own until trial, and did not recover his passport.

Hochhalter, in releasing Pfaff on his own recognizance, said Pfaff had “substantial assets” and annual earnings of around $6 million. Pfaff has “all the things that make you, essentially, a North Dakota with substantial ties.”

A farm with late-model planting and tillage equipment sits atop a hill,
Kent Pfaff, manager of Pfaff Farms of Washburn, ND, whose base is near the village of Falkirk, ND, recently received a six-month adjournment in his federal criminal crop insurance case, scheduled for a three-day trial starting October 1. 18, 2022, in Bismarck, North Dakota. Photo taken March 3, 2022, near Falkirk, North Dakota.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The farm is known as one of the largest in the region, with tens of thousands of acres.

In the indictment filed on February 2, 2022, U.S. attorney Nick Chase said Pfaff made false statements to influence the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, which handles insurance. -crop through Federal Crop Insurance Corp.

Between January 1, 2017 and June 1, 2022. Pfaff, “falsely represented and caused another to falsely present information to RMA/FCIC to move production from different crop fields to fabricate and inflate insurance claims- harvest to which he was not entitled”, denounces the government.

A large modern farm, and its grain silos, sit on top of a hill in early March remnants of snow.  Several kilometers behind are the smokestacks of a coal-fired power plant, which adjoins an ethanol plant.
Pfaff Farms, left, foreground, is a major agricultural farm in McLean County, also home to coal, power generation and ethanol. Photo taken March 3, 2022, near Falkirk, North Dakota.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

“Production shifting is a fraudulent scheme in which a person will over-report production from one or more fields and under-report production from one or more different fields to fabricate or inflate claims to which they are not entitled” , Chase wrote in the indictment.

Chase said that between December 1, 2019 and June 1, 2020, Pfaff knowingly provided false information to Sheldon Crop Insurance Agency, FMH Ag Risk Insurance Co and Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa, and a Farmers Insurance adjuster Mutual Hail. .

A green road sign indicates it is 1 mile from Falkirk, ND.
The small village of Falkirk, North Dakota is near the home base of Pfaff Farms, Washburn, North Dakota, run by Kent Pfaff, who is facing a federal criminal case involving fraud in crop insurance. A power plant and an ethanol plant are to the right, behind the elevators associated with the village. Picture taken March 3, 2022.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Separately, Kent Pfaff is involved in a federal civil case filed on February 22, 2022. In that case, WBI Energy Transmission, Inc., is suing for eminent domain associated with parcels of Pfaff land involved in a gas pipeline.

The defendants are Falkirk Mining Co.; Kenneth H. Pfaff (Kent Pfaff’s father) and Kent S. Pfaff, listed as trustee of the Wanda L. Pfaff Family Trust, established September 17, 1999, and personal representative of the estate of his mother, Wanda L Pfaff, who died on January 6, 2021.

An agreement filed on March 17, 2022 will allow the project to proceed but does not fully address the “scope of easement rights” and reserves rights to “compensation claims.”

The skyline of Falkirk, ND is flanked by smoke from a coal-fired power plant, associated with the Blue Flint ethanol plant.
The village of Falkirk, North Dakota is near the home base of Pfaff Farms in Washburn, North Dakota, run by Kent Pfaff, who is facing a federal criminal case involving food fraud. crop insurance. A power plant and an ethanol plant are to the right, behind the elevators associated with the village. Picture taken March 3, 2022.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

In this case, WBI Transmission claims Eminent Domain Authority in a pipeline for WBI Energy. WBI will install 9.67 miles of 8-inch diameter lateral pipeline to Blue Flint Ethanol’s ethanol plant in McLean County. WBI says its authority comes from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A 60-day protest period for their prominent domain case ended on October 21, 2021.

Three large blue Pfaff Farms grain conveyors stand, flanked by a large coal-fired power generation facility and the Blue Flint ethanol plant.
Grain conveying equipment at Pfaff Farms in Washburn, ND is flanked by a power plant near Falkirk, ND. Apart from a criminal case against Kent Pfaff, he is involved in a federal eminent domain case involving a gas pipeline to Blue Flint Ethanol. Picture taken March 3, 2022.

Mikkel Pates / Agweek

“Delaying construction will result in increased costs and expenses that WBI Energy will not be able to recoup,” argued attorneys for WBI Transmission. “Delaying construction will more effectively delay the transportation and delivery of affordable domestic supplies of natural gas, delay the reduction of natural gas flaring in North Dakota, and delay compliance with state-established natural gas capture targets. “, they said.

Elna M. Lemons