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Stamp Co-Defendants Sentenced 02/19 14:23

   Becraft, Diekman Ordered to Pay More Than $1M Following Plea Agreements

   Two Michigan men will serve prison time for their roles in helping Stamp 
Farms LLC falsely attain crop insurance.

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

   OMAHA (DTN) -- Two of three men indicted on 14 counts of conspiracy to 
commit bank fraud and making false statements to attain loans and crop 
insurance for Decatur, Michigan-based Stamp Farms LLC, have been sentenced to 
prison time. They have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in 
restitution as a result of reaching plea agreements.

   According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the 
District of Western Michigan, James Leonard Becraft, Jr. pleaded guilty to 
conspiracy to make false statements on crop insurance forms. On Feb. 12, he was 
sentenced to a year in prison, a two-year supervised release and ordered to pay 
$648,188 in restitution to the Risk Management Agency in Kansas City, Missouri.

   Douglas Edward Diekman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements 
on crop insurance forms. On Dec. 20, 2018, Diekman was sentenced to 13 months 
in prison, a two-year supervised release and ordered to pay $488,432 in 
restitution -- $409,403 to RMA and $79,029 to the Farm Service Agency in Kansas 
City.

   On Dec. 13, 2017, a grand jury handed down an indictment of Becraft, Diekman 
and Michael Stamp in connection with the Stamp Farms Chapter 11 bankruptcy 
filed in November 2012. The bank found Stamp Farms in noncompliance on loan 
agreements, including working capital and other ratios. Michael Stamp is the 
former owner of the farm. Stamp's case has yet to be resolved, as a hearing was 
scheduled for Tuesday in Michigan.

   Stamp and Becraft originally pleaded not guilty in January 2018, according 
to court records, after being arrested by Internal Revenue Service agents on 
Jan. 18, 2018. According to the indictment, the losses alleged in the fraud 
total about $60.5 million.

   Becraft agreed to cooperate with federal authorities on the investigation 
into Stamp Farms, as part of the plea agreement.

   STAMP FARMS BANKRUPTCY

   According to court documents in Stamp's individual bankruptcy case, Wells 
Fargo claimed it had made a $68 million loan in December 2011 based on 
representations that Stamp Farms and its affiliates farmed 46,000 acres. Audits 
later could uncover only about 27,000 acres, the bank claimed.

   Stamp Farms' assets eventually were auctioned off to Dennis Boersen, the 
owner of Zeeland, Michigan-based Boersen Farms. Boersen Farms has also faced 
financial difficulties. The 80,000-acre corn and soybean operation had been 
sued by CHS Capital LLC, for defaulting on $145.3 million in loans. A newly 
formed Zeeland-based lender, LT Capital LLC, agreed to take on the debt on Oct. 
4, 2017, with plans to dismiss the lawsuit.

   The indictment said Stamp rapidly increased the number of acres the company 
farmed by acquiring agricultural land leases from landowners in southwest 
Michigan, "often by paying above-market rates."

   Over the years, Stamp relied on "large" operating loans and credit 
agreements. In addition, the indictment said Stamp used crop insurance payments 
to pay for some of his operation, including covering lease payments.

   Starting in 2011, Stamp needed money to keep his farm going and to pay off 
an outstanding loan. Between March and December, Stamp allegedly provided false 
information to obtain about $68 million in credit from Wells Fargo by 
misrepresenting the amount of land he farmed and the value of his farming 
assets, the grand jury said.

   According to the indictment, when the bank extended his credit, Stamp 
allegedly continued to provide false information about his operation. In 
addition, Stamp allegedly submitted false claims to the Federal Crop Insurance 
Corporation in order to get crop insurance payments.

   Stamp is alleged to have conspired with Becraft and Diekman, in particular, 
to "defraud the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and its reinsurers," the 
indictment said.

   In June 2015, Stamp's wife, Melissa Stamp, was sentenced to 20 months in 
jail and 20 months of supervised release, and was also required to pay $184,500 
in restitution and had to forfeit $151,915 as part of a plea agreement with 
federal authorities for her role in bankruptcy fraud.

   According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, at the time 
of her guilty plea, Melissa Stamp admitted to giving $75,000 to her brother and 
about $90,000 to her father to conceal the money from a bankruptcy case that 
was filed one month later by her husband. She also admitted to concealing 
$50,000 in a safe in her home, according to DOJ, but none of the money was 
disclosed to the bankruptcy court.

   The Stamp Farms bankruptcy case left southwestern Michigan landowners and 
creditors jolted by what legal experts believe was, at the time, the largest 
grain farm bankruptcy in U.S. history. 

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

   Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

    


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