N.C. Couple ‘Iced’ Tomatoes; Sentenced for $9M in Fake Claims

September 9, 2005

A scheme to defraud a government agency and several private insurance companies of more than $9 million has landed an Asheville, N.C. farmer and his wife in prison.

Robert Warren and Vicki Warren, owners of R&V Warren Farms, once one of the largest tomato-growing farms in the eastern U.S., filed fake crop damage reports claiming losses that never happened.

In July 2004, they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Viki Warren pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the FCIC and mail fraud.

Gretchen Shappert, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina told the Asheville Citizen-Times that in one instance, employees threw ice cubes onto a tomato field, beat the plants with sticks and photographed the results in an attempt to simulate damage from a hail storm to back up an insurance claim.

Judge Lacy Thornburg sentenced Robert Warren to 76 months in prison, while Vicki Warren received 66 months. The couple was also ordered to forfeit $7.3 million in assets and pay $9.15 million in restitution.

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