Three defendants tried and four defendants sentenced for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of government funds

 

Date: October 30, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Pensacola, Florida – With the trial of three defendants last week and the sentencing of four defendants yesterday, federal prosecutors are close to finishing their work in bringing to justice dozens of current and former federal, state, and local officials and prominent business people all connected in a scheme to defraud the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In November 2019, a federal grand jury returned a far-reaching indictment charging a County Executive Director of the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency with orchestrating a broad-based conspiracy to steal government drought assistance funds and hide the actions through identify theft, tax evasion, and other federal crimes. As a result of this crackdown by U.S. Attorney Keefe's enhanced Public Trust Unit, 29 individuals were indicted; alleged to have defrauded the federal government, and taxpayers, of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Duane Edward Crawson of Bonifay, Florida, led the conspiracy that included a former Holmes County Clerk of Court and numerous other individuals who had served in positions of public trust. Between May and December of 2017, while employed as a County Executive Director of the USDA's Farm Service Agency for Bay, Holmes, and Washington counties, Crawson devised a kickback scheme in which he and his co-conspirators unlawfully obtained approximately $400,534 in taxpayer funds by submitting fraudulent drought assistance claims.

Crawson submitted fraudulent claims for livestock and farmland parcels that were not actually owned or leased by the conspirators, resulting in drought assistance funds being deposited into the conspirators' bank accounts. The co-conspirators paid Crawson a portion of the fraud proceeds in the form of cash kickbacks.

On October 23, 2020, a federal trial jury found Danyel Witt guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft. The same jury returned a not-guilty verdict as to Jeremiah Rolling and Justin Chopelas on charges of conspiracy and theft of government funds. Witt's sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 21, 2021.

Each of the remaining 26 defendants pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of government funds. Sentencing hearings were conducted yesterday for Crawson along with co-conspirators James Stacey Paul, Davey Eugene Mancill, and Ronald Ryan Roof.

Sentences for all 26 are:

Name City/State Sentence
Duane Edward Crawson Bonifay, Florida 36 months in federal prison
Davey Eugene Mancill Westville, Florida 24 months in federal prison
James Stacey Paul Bonifay, Florida 18 months in federal prison
Jordan Ryan Hicks Ponce De Leon, Florida 15 months in federal prison
Kyle Martin Hudson Westville, Florida 12 months and 1 day in federal prison
Dwayne Frazier White Bonifay, Florida 12 days in federal prison, 4 years of probation
Ronald Ryan Roof Florida 4 years of probation
Christopher Marion Ammons Ponce De Leon, Florida 4 years of probation
Sheryl Day Gillman Bonifay, Florida 4 years of probation
Shyloe Rose Sachse Bonifay, Florida 4 years of probation
Tillman Douglas Mears Bonifay, Florida 4 years of probation
Dawn Marie Crutchfield Bonifay Florida 4 years of probation
Megan Leann Roof Westville, Florida 4 years of probation
Billy Coal Bradshaw Bonifay, Florida 4 years of probation
James Erwin Mancill Bonifay, Florida 4 years of probation
Joseph Matthew Crowder Caryville, Florida 4 years of probation
Audrey Lynn Smith Caryville, Florida 4 years of probation
Brian Anthony Ammons Ponce De Leon, Florida 4 years of probation
Taylor Ward Stripling Westville, Florida 4 years of probation
Dawn Marie Roof Chipley, Florida 4 years of probation
Daniel Olajuwon Boston Chipley, Florida 4 years of probation
Chassity Lynn Lee Bonifay, Florida 4 years of probation
Jennifer Marie McCabe Bonifay, Florida 4 years of probation
Justina Rae Williams Caryville, Florida 4 years of probation
Joseph Bailey Alexander Chipley, Florida 4 years of probation
Douglas Edward Mixon Westville, Florida 2 years of probation

In addition to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of government funds, Crawson, Davey Mancill, and Paul pled guilty to aggravated identity theft. Crawson also pled guilty to tax evasion, as well as obstruction of the internal revenue laws.

As a part of their sentence, each defendant has been ordered to pay restitution in the amount of their fraudulent claims. To date the government has received in excess of $120,000 of the $400,534 fraudulently obtained as a part of the kickback scheme.

This case resulted from a 20-month investigation conducted by a partnership of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors at all levels of government, including the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the United States Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Jason R. Coody is prosecuting the case.