A Minnesota farmer has been ordered to pay back more than $1.4 million for defrauding federal loan programs.
Along with making full restitution, U.S. District Judge Nancy E. Brasel's sentence Monday of Robert W.J. Anderson, 67, of Becker, includes placing him on three years' probation and ordering him to perform 150 hours of community service. Sentencing guidelines called for a possible sentence of 24 to 30 months in prison.
Prosecutors said Anderson fraudulently received five Commodity Credit Corp. loans through a federal farm program administered by the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent conversion of security.
As part of the terms of the loans received in 2017 and 2018, Anderson pledged to maintain hundreds of thousands of bushels of corn as collateral, agreeing not to move or dispose of them without approval from the lending agency.
However, according to court documents, the Farm Service Agency conducted a spot check in late 2018 and discovered that the bins of corn Anderson pledged as collateral for three of the loans were nearly empty.
Anderson had sold the corn under a relative's name to avoid detection. The Farm Service Agency also learned that Anderson orchestrated two fraudulent loans in the names of family members for which collateral grain never actually existed.
In total, Anderson defrauded the USDA out of $1,425,718.36. Other than making a few small payments, he failed to repay the loans, according to court records.
The prosecution acknowledged in a court filing before sentencing that Anderson "has devoted his entire adult life to farming, and had worked extremely hard on behalf of his family to maintain the farm.
"He did not take the [federal] loans to live a lavish lifestyle or enrich himself at the expense of the government, but rather to try to stay afloat in tidal waters of debt."
The defense in its presentence filing said Anderson's farming business was going well until "things changed in 2017. … It rained, and over 4,000 acres went unplanted because it was too wet. He also had heart surgery that year … and nearly died."
His attorney went on to write that Anderson "is indeed extremely remorseful, is ashamed that he has tarnished his family's previous excellent reputation, and has accepted full responsibility for his crimes."