Farmers pay $500,000 for alleged false claims on COVID-19 Food Assistance application - East Idaho News

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Farmers pay $500,000 for alleged false claims on COVID-19 Food Assistance application

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The following is a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice for the District of Idaho.

BOISE – U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced Wednesday that Merrill Hanny, Roger Burke, and Robert Sollis, three farmers in eastern Idaho, have paid a total of $500,000 to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act.

The men recently submitted fraudulent Coronavirus Food Assistance Program applications. CFAP was intended to provide direct support to farmers and ranchers to offset losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The settlement resolves allegations that Hanny, Burke, and Sollis knowingly and impermissibly included millions of pounds of potatoes on Burke’s and Sollis’ CFAP applications that were actually owned by Hanny. In this way, Burke and Hanny obtained CFAP funds they were not eligible to receive, and Hanny was able to circumvent the $250,000 cap on CFAP funds he could receive.

“The vast majority of Idahoans who applied for CFAP funds played by the rules,” said U.S. Attorney Hurwit. “Unfortunately, some individuals have sought to line their pockets by defrauding taxpayer-funded pandemic relief programs like USDA’s CFAP program. We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to pursue and hold such individuals accountable.”

The settlement is a result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho.

For more information on the Department of Justice’s response to the pandemic fraud, click here.

Anyone who suspects fraud or other wrongdoing related to the pandemic should report it to the COVID-19 Pandemic Fraud Hotline, or by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. You can also fill out the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

Idahoans are also encouraged to report COVID-19 fraud directly to the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (208) 334-1211.

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