Stamps Plead Guilty in Bank Fraud Case

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Todd NeeleyDTN Staff ReporterOMAHA (DTN) — Former Stamp Farms owners and operators Michael and Melissa Stamp have pleaded guilty to charges in a bank fraud case connected to the bankruptcy of the 27,000-acre Decatur, Michigan-based farm.The 2012 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.Michael Stamp owned a number of related businesses that were part of the Chapter 11 farm bankruptcy. They included a custom farming operation, a trucking business, an excavating operation and grain elevator Northstar Grain LLC, which has a reported 4.2 million bushels of grain capacity.Michael Stamp pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and providing false statements to investigators. According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, he faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater.The plea agreement includes Stamp forfeiting all of his assets acquired in the commission of the crime. In addition, he has agreed to cooperate in other investigations related to the case. As a result of the plea, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss the previous indictment of Stamp at the time of his sentencing set for August.Melissa Stamp pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, which is concealing a felony. According to court records she could face up to three years in prison, up to one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. She plead guilty to hiding $40,000 from Wells Fargo and creditors of Michael Stamp, according to court records.In June 2015, 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 court documents in Michael 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.The farm and its related businesses at the time of the bankruptcy claimed assets valued at $131 million and a net worth of $39 million. An audit found those assets dwindled to about $93 million in a matter of months.According to court documents filed earlier in April, Stamp Farms submitted false claims to the Federal Crop Insurance Corp., in order to obtain payments to help pay for his operations and to make lease payments.“Stamp also conspired with James Leonard Becraft and Douglas Edward Diekman to defraud the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. and its reinsurers,” according to a court document.Becraft pleaded guilty to conspiracy for making false statements on crop insurance forms. On Feb. 12, 2019, 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.Diekman pleaded guilty to conspiracy for making 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.Stamp Farms filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2012 after Wells Fargo initiated action against Stamp on June 30, 2012. The bank found Stamp Farms in noncompliance on loan agreements, including working capital and other ratios.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.Todd Neeley can be reached at [email protected] him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN(BAS/SK )© Copyright 2019 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.last_img

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