OHIO VALLEY — Sentencing is set for June 22 for Christopher T. Wolfe, 43, of Racine, who is one of five Meigs County men charged in May 2014 with crop insurance fraud.
All five entered guilty pleas Jan. 16 in federal court in Columbus, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office-Southern District of Ohio, for “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” in exchange for dismissal of charges that included money laundering and theft of public money.
Pleading guilty in addition to Wolfe were Terry J. McNickle, 51; Mark D. Wolfe, 41; and Joey L. Jerrell, 43, all of Racine; and Michael L. Johnson, 62, of Portland.
The defendants were originally charged with conspiracy, punishable by a prison term of up to five years, and theft of public monies, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The indictment had also charged conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, crimes punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Not all defendants were charged in each count of money laundering or money laundering conspiracy. The indictment was seeking forfeiture of the proceeds traceable to the commission of the crimes totaling $1.56 million
According to court records, Wolfe was accused of recruiting co-conspirators to enroll in the federal Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that were not planted.
Financial assistance is provided to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occur due to a natural disaster by the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Applicants are limited to $100,000 per crop year per individual or entity.
The men were alleged to have applied for payments from the program which were turned over to Wolfe. The accused supposedly kept a portion of the payments for themselves. The investigation involved federal authorities, including the U.S. Secret Service, who were involved due to the money laundering charge.
A date of June 12 was set for sentencing for Michael L. Johnson. No details of his sentence were available at press time.
Sentencing for Terry J. McNickle was May 21. McNickle received three years probation, a $100 special assessment, restitution in the amount of $464,780.50, to be paid jointly and severally with co-defendant Christopher T. Wolfe, and forfeiture of property as set forth in the forfeiture allegation.
Judgement was decided April 28 in the case against Mark D. Wolfe. Wolfe received 2.5 years probation and a $100 special assessment. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $100,000, minus the proceeds from the sale of the John Deere tractor, which is currently in Secret Service custody, to be paid jointly and severally with co-defendant Christopher T. Wolfe, and forfeiture of property set forth in the forfeiture allegation.
Joey L. Jarrell was sentenced April 28 to three years probation and a $100 special assessment. His judgment also includes restitution in the amount of $432,216, to be paid jointly and severally with co-defendant Christopher T. Wolfe, and forfeiture of property set forth in the forfeiture allegation.
Several attempts have been made by local media to interview Wolfe, a Letart Township trustee, since his arrest. He was asked by The Daily Sentinel reporter at a recent township meeting how the sentencing would affect his position as trustee and if he planned to resign.
Wolfe responded by asking where the information regarding his plea and sentencing date came from and why it was any of The Daily News’ business. He added that “nothing was settled and dates keep changing.”
“When I go (to federal court in Columbus), a lot of people will be going with me,” he said.
In an attempt to clarify Wolfe’s statement, the reporter asked if he was he saying there hadn’t been a plea agreement as stated in the court brief. He was also asked to explain his statement of “a lot of people” in Columbus with him.
Wolfe became agitated and said he had already answered the question and had nothing more to say. As the reporter was leaving the meeting, Wolfe had more to say.
“If I’m guilty, then everyone else is, too, because everyone else does the same thing,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe seemed to imply during the open meeting that misconduct regularly occurs at the agency that provides farm insurance. When The Daily News asked for further clarification on the latest statement. Wolfe, visibly agitated, unleashed a barrage of expletives at the The Daily News reporter and told her to “get out.”
During the discourse, township members did not respond to Wolfe’s comments. No further statements have since been made by Wolfe or Letart Township trustees.