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Michigan Farmer Trial Set in September
By Todd Neeley
Monday, June 10, 2024 10:02AM CDT

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- With a possible plea agreement in the works, a federal judge delayed the scheduled June trial of Springport, Michigan, farmer Gaylord Lincoln to September, according to an order handed down by the court.

Lincoln was indicted by a grand jury in 2022 on 13 counts in connection with a federal investigation into alleged federal crop insurance and farm benefits fraud. His trial originally was scheduled for May 28 and was moved to June 25 after both sides requested an additional 120 days.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan now has scheduled a trial by jury on Sept. 17. All motions are now due by July 15, and the cutoff date for a possible plea is Aug. 15, according to the court's order.

"It is further ordered that the time between June 25, 2024, and Sept. 17, 2024, is excludable pursuant to the provisions of the Speedy Trial Act, because considering the factors in (the act) along with the parties' stipulation that the adjournment will provide additional time to contemplate and prepare pretrial motions and engage in plea negotiations," the court said, "the court finds that the ends of justice served by this delay outweigh the best interest of the defendant and the public in a speedy trial."

In December 2021, the U.S. government filed a complaint alleging Lincoln violated the False Claims Act by maintaining a "scheme to fraudulently" obtain more federal farm benefit program payments than he was entitled to receive, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

In September 2022, a federal grand jury handed down indictments, including four counts for making a false statement to obtain crop insurance, five counts of wire fraud and four counts of mail fraud. That same month, U.S. attorneys dropped the lawsuit as part of a settlement agreement.

Lincoln's farm operates on land across four counties in south-central Michigan, including Calhoun, Eaton, Ingham and Jackson.

According to the indictment, from 2010 to 2019, Lincoln set up "sham farming operations" using the names of family members and farm employees. Lincoln then allegedly took out land leases on farmland using the names of the operators.

"Defendant further directed the sham farming operators to obtain multiperil crop insurance through FCIC-backed insurers," the indictment said.

"At defendant's direction, these sham farming operators applied for federal crop insurance under their own names."

In crop insurance applications, acreage reports and loss claims, the indictment said the operators, at Lincoln's direction, allegedly "falsely asserted that they had a 100% share in the insured crops."

The indictment alleges the "sham farming operators" did not have a 100% share in the insured crops because they lacked financial risk in the production of those crops.

The indictment alleges Lincoln handled almost all interactions with the crop insurance agency on behalf of the fake farm operators.

"In the event that the crop insurance company paid to cover a loss under a policy held by the sham farming operators, this money was placed in the 'joint' accounts controlled by defendant or was paid to the sham farming operators," the indictment alleges.

"The defendant then directed that the money be paid over to him, or the monies were used to fund defendant's sham farming operations."

Lincoln allegedly "fraudulently obtained indemnification" payments from a crop insurance provider.

Read more on DTN:

"Michigan Farmer Faces Federal Trial," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on social platform X @DTNeeley

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