Feds indict local farmer for crop insurance fraud

Jatinderieet “Jyoti” Sihota of Selma allegedly submitted $790,000 in fraudulent crop insurance claims for family farms in Tulare and Fresno counties

FRESNO – A Tulare County farmer is facing a federal indictment for submitting nearly $800,000 in fraudulent crop insurance claims.

On March 10, Jatinderieet “Jyoti” Sihota, 34, of Selma, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud for the submission of over $790,000 in fraudulent claims, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

Sihota controlled her family’s farms from November 2013 through September 2016. The farms, located in Tulare and Fresno counties, produced table grapes, plums, and other crops. The crops were sold through fruit brokers in the Central Valley to supermarket chains and other third-party buyers.

Throughout this period, Sihota and others caused her family’s farms to obtain federally backed crop insurance policies through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency’s Federal Crop Insurance Program. They then submitted fraudulent insurance claims for crop losses due to excessive heat, rain, and other reasons that did not actually occur.

Sihota and others, including individuals at the produce brokers through which the crops were sold, altered records to misrepresent the varieties, quantities, and other information regarding the crops that were sold and submitted the records to the insurance program to support the fraudulent claims. These misrepresentations established sufficient crop losses to obtain insurance payments. When the insurance loss adjusters contacted Sihota and others to confirm the accuracy of the representations, they confirmed that the representations were accurate and complete, but in actuality, they were not.

If convicted, Sihota faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the conspiracy and mail fraud charges.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General and the USDA Management Agency’s Special Investigations Staff. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.

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