Pfaff crop insurance fraud trial delayed 6 months
A trial in the crop insurance/farm program fraud case against Kent Pfaff and his farm near Falkirk, North Dakota, in McLean County, has been delayed to start Oct. 18, 2022, because of its complexity. If convicted, Pfaff faces up to 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines.
BISMARCK, N.D. — A federal judge has granted a six-month delay in the jury trial for a farmer Washburn, North Dakota, who is accused of giving false information to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials for crop insurance compensation .
Kent S. Pfaff has pleaded not guilty to the charges . He now is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 18, 2022.
A federal grand jury on Feb. 2, 2022, indicted Pfaff for things they allege he did from Jan. 1, 2017, through June 1, 2022. Pfaff so far only has had the opportunity to plead not guilty.
Judge Daniel L. Hovland on March 23, 2022, agreed to “continue” or delay a three-day trial from its original schedule, which was to have been April 19, 2022.
If convicted, Pfaff faces a maximum of 30 years imprisonment, and up to $1 million in fines and five-years supervised release. Pfaff and his wife, Rhonda, farm with sons, Stephen and Zachary, and family friend Chris Stork.
Gary R. Leistico, Pfaff’s attorney from St. Cloud, Minn., and Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Chase and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan J. O’Konek, agreed that the proof in the allegations are “especially complex,” considering they already have 14,000 pages of discovery to provide to the defendant “and audio files.”
Federal Magistrate Judge Clare R. Hochhalter on March 3, 2022, allowed Pfaff, who farms in the Falkirk North Dakota, area, to remain free on his own recognizance until the trial, and did not collect his passport.
No flight risk
Hochhalter, in releasing Pfaff on his own recognizance, said Pfaff has “substantial assets” and has annual revenues of about $6 million. Pfaff has “all of the things that make you, essentially, a North Dakotan with substantial ties.”
The farm is known as one of the region’s largest, with tens of thousands of acres.
In the indictment filed Feb. 2, 2022, U.S. Attorney Nick Chase said Pfaff gave false statements to influence the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, which handles crop insurance through the Federal Crop Insurance Corp.
Between Jan. 1, 2017, and June 1, 2022. Pfaff, “falsely represented, and caused another to falsely represent information to RMA/FCIC to shift production from different crop fields to manufacture and inflate crop insurance indemnities to which he was not entitled,” the government alleges.
“Shifting production is a fraud scheme where a person will overreport production from one or more fields and underreport production from one or more different fields to manufacture or inflate claims to which they are not entitled,” Chase wrote in the indictment.
Chase said that between Dec. 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 to a Farmers Mutual Hail insurance adjuster.
Separately, Kent Pfaff is involved in a federal civil case filed Feb. 22, 2022. In that case, WBI Energy Transmission, Inc., suing for eminent domain associated with Pfaff land parcels involved in a natural gas pipeline.
Defendants are Falkirk Mining Co.; Kenneth H. Pfaff (Kent Pfaff’s father) and Kent S. Pfaff, listed as a trustee of the Wanda L. Pfaff Family Trust, created in Sept. 17, 1999, and as a personal representative for the estate of his mother, Wanda L. Pfaff, who died Jan. 6, 2021.
An agreement filed March 17, 2022, will allow the project to move forward but but doesn’t fully settle the “scope of the easement rights” and reserves the rights to “claims relating to compensation."
In that case, WBI Transmission claims eminent domain authority in a natural gas pipeline for WBI Energy. WBI will install 9.67 miles of 8-inch diameter natural gas lateral pipeline to Blue Flint Ethanol’s ethanol plant in McLean County. WBI says its authority comes from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A 60-day protest deadline for their eminent domain case ended Oct. 21, 2021.
“Delaying construction will cause increased costs and expenses that WBI Energy cannot recover,” WBI Transmission lawyers argued. “Delaying construction will delay the transportation and delivery of affordable domestic supplies of natural gas more efficiently, delay reduction of flaring of natural gas in North Dakota, and delay compliance with established state-mandated natural gas capture targets,” they said.