Indian-American woman arrested for crop insurance fraud

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU

An Indian-American woman from Selma, California was arrested on March 10 on a federal indictment charging her with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud for the submission of over $790,000 in fraudulent crop insurance claims.

Acting US Attorney Phillip A Talbert announced the arrest of Jatinderieet “Jyoti” Sihota, 34, through a media release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

According to court records, from at least November 2013 through September 2016, Sihota controlled her family’s farms in Fresno and Tulare Counties that produced table grapes, plums, and other crops. The crops were sold through fruit brokers in California’s Central Valley to supermarket chains and other third-party buyers.

Throughout this period, Sihota and others caused her family’s farms to obtain federally backed crop insurance policies through the US Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency’s Federal Crop Insurance Program. They then submitted fraudulent insurance claims for crop losses due to excessive heat, rain, and other reasons that did not actually occur, according to the indictment.

Sihota and others, including individuals at the produce brokers through which the crops were sold, altered records to misrepresent the varieties, quantities, and other information regarding the crops that were sold and submitted the records to the insurance program to support the fraudulent claims, the indictment said.

These misrepresentations established sufficient crop losses to obtain insurance payments. When the insurance loss adjusters contacted Sihota and others to confirm the accuracy of the representations, they confirmed that the representations were accurate and complete, but in actuality, they were not, according to the indictment.

The case is the product of an investigation by the Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General and the USDA Management Agency’s Special Investigations Staff.

If convicted, Sihota faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the conspiracy and mail fraud charges.

As of now, the charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.