Scheme involved multiple tactics to manipulate policies
A county official in Central Kentucky has pleaded guilty to charges related to crop insurance fraud.
Bourbon County magistrate Randall D. Taulbee confessed to two counts of conspiracy to commit an offense against the US during a hearing held in federal court on Thursday.
As part of his plea agreement, Taulbee has waived his right to appeal any sentence that does not exceed three years and six months in prison.
In addition to the prison term, Taulbee has agreed to pay $458,104 to a US Department of Agriculture agency that provides crop insurance to farmers.
He will also pay an additional $260,680 to AgriSompo North America, a private insurance company.
Under the agreement, Taulbee will be jointly liable for restitution along with James A. McDonald and Cherie Lynn Noble, who were also involved in the scheme and had previously pleaded guilty.
Noble is Taulbee’s sister, while McDonald is his brother-in-law.
Details of the insurance fraud scheme
Taulbee, who owned and rented farmland in Bourbon and Nicholas counties that primarily cultivated tobacco and corn, was involved in various fraudulent activities related to crop insurance from at least 2013 to late 2017.
According to court documents, he collaborated with McDonald and an unnamed insurance agent to manipulate crop insurance policies using multiple strategies.
These tactics included falsely reporting larger crop acreages, submitting fabricated expense records from a farm-supply business, claiming sole ownership of a crop when it was shared with McDonald, withholding sales information that would offset loss claims, and filing fraudulent claims.
To amplify their gains, Taulbee and McDonald also purchased crop insurance under Noble’s name. This resulted in larger payouts, since she was listed as a new producer.
A separate motion filed by the prosecutor also outlined an incident in April 2018 where Taulbee purportedly impersonated his father during a phone call with a federal investigator regarding the case.
The prosecutor revealed that Noble would have testified that it was her brother on the line if Taulbee had proceeded to trial.
She would have also testified that Taulbee had approached her in 2015 and requested her to put his crops under her name, the prosecutor said in the motion.
While Noble initially provided false information to agents investigating the case, she eventually confessed that she neither owned nor rented any farmland or engaged in crop or cattle farming. McDonald was also expected to testify against Taulbee had the case gone to trial.
The charges against Taulbee, McDonald, and Noble are part of a broader investigation into crop insurance fraud in Central Kentucky, the Lexington Herald Leader reported. The prosecutor referred to the scale of the fraud as “staggering,” with over two dozen individuals having already been convicted.
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