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Crooked Farmer Goes to Jail and Must Pay $2.5 Million in Restitution

Defendant Ronnie Jolly pleaded guilty to crop insurance fraud, money laundering, and conspiring to defraud the United States and to commit mail or wire fraud. The Government sought restitution of monies paid by the crop insurance program and Jolly moved to avoid or limit the orders of restitution.

In United States Of America v. Ronnie Jolly, CRIMINAL No. 5:18-32-KKC, United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington (November 1, 2021) the court dealt with the restitution order.

FACTS

In his plea agreement, Jolly agreed that he owned and rented certain farmland. He agreed that, from 2010 to early 2016, he made material misrepresentations on paperwork regarding the federal crop insurance policies that covered his crops and that he also procured federal crop insurance policies in the names of other people. He agreed that he did all of this to obtain money from the federal government to which he was not entitled. He also agreed that, from 2014 to 2016, he made material misrepresentations to private crop insurance companies to obtain money to which he was not entitled.

After a sentencing hearing conducted on August 13, 2021, the Court entered a judgment sentencing Jolly to a prison term of 36 months. Prior to the sentencing hearing, the government filed a motion seeking restitution of $2,955,163.

The government has identified two victims of Jolly’s fraudulent conduct. It asks the Court to order restitution in the amount of $2,365,214 payable to the United States Department of Agriculture-Risk Management Agency (“USDA RMA”) and $589,949 payable to Sompo International. Sompo was formerly named ARMtech Insurance Services, Inc. The parties have referred to Sompo as ARMtech in their briefs, and the Court will do the same in this opinion.

As to the restitution requested for USDA RMA, the amount requested represents the indemnity payments received by Jolly on the federal crop insurance policies at issue less any premiums paid on policies that were held in the names of actual farmers.

Jolly argued that he should be ordered to pay restitution of only $238,937 to ARMtech and nothing to USDA RMA. Jolly made clear at the restitution hearing that he does not contest the government’s calculations as to the indemnity payments he received or the premiums paid. Instead, he makes three legal arguments that any amount above $238,937 to ARMtech should be excluded from his restitution obligation.

The victims, the USDA Risk Management Agency and ARMtech Insurance Services, Inc., have suffered compensable losses. ARMtech Insurance Services submitted a request for restitution in the amount of $238,937 for lost income and $350,289 for necessary other expenses. The request for restitution in its entirety will be provided to the Court.

By its plain language the MVRA does not prohibit the Court from ordering more restitution than that identified in the Presentence Report (PSR). Instead, if the PSR does not set forth sufficient information for the Court to fashion a restitution order, the Court may request additional information. The Court permitted briefing on the restitution issue and conducted a hearing on the government’s restitution request. Jolly argued that he should not be ordered to pay back all indemnity payments he received because some of those payments “may have been legitimate.” Pursuant to the crop insurance regulations, however, the policies were voided due to Jolly’s admittedly material misrepresentations regarding the policies.

Since, Jolly conceded that he misrepresented material facts relating to all the policies at issue. Thus, the relevant crop insurance policies are void, and Jolly is entitled to nothing from the insurance.

The MVRA provides that a restitution order must require the defendant to reimburse the victim for lost income and certain necessary expenses including “expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense.” 18 U.S.C.A. § 3663A(b)(4).

There is no information from which this Court could determine whether ARMtech incurred the claimed expenses as part of the government’s investigation or criminal proceedings or whether the expenses were incurred at the government’s invitation or request. Accordingly, the Court could not order that Jolly pay this amount in restitution.

The MVRA explicitly prohibits the Court from considering the economic circumstances of the defendant when determining the full amount of each victim’s losses. To the extent that Jolly asks the Court to consider his economic circumstances in determining the full amount of restitution owed, the Court must deny that request.

Since the Court could not find that Jolly is financially incapable of paying any amount of restitution. The Court, therefore, ordered that Jolly pay the full amount of restitution immediately.  When Jolly’s supervised release commences, Jolly must pay any unpaid portion of his restitution at a rate to be determined by his probation officer taking into account Jolly’s financial circumstances at that time.

Finally, the government requests that certain defendants in other cases involving crop insurance fraud be made jointly and severally liable with Jolly for a portion of the restitution owed by him. Defendant Michael McNew was Jolly’s insurance agent. Defendants Douglas Chad Snedegar and Timothy Douglas Snedegar were Jolly’s insurance adjusters. The government asserts that these defendants were Jolly’s coconspirators. It asks that the Court order that these defendants be jointly and severally liable with Jolly for the restitution owed by him and ordered that those defendants be made respondents in this action and will grant them the opportunity to respond to the government’s request for joint and several liability. The court ordered the alleged co-conspirators to appear and defend whether they are obligated to pay restitution to the government concurrently with Jolly.

ZALMA OPINION

Insurance criminals have no shame. After admitting the extensive nature of his fraud Jolly had the unmitigated gall to try to limit, or eliminate, the restitution ordered. He succeeded in limiting what was to be paid to the private insurer to only indemnity payments and failed on his obligation to repay the crop insurance program he admittedly defrauded. The government should take all of Jolly’s assets up to the amount he stole and he should be required to spend all of the time ordered in the grey-bar-hotel.


© 2021 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders.

He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business.

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He is available at http://www.zalma.com and zalma@zalma.com. Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award. Over the last 53 years Barry Zalma has dedicated his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to make it possible for insurers and their claims staff to become insurance claims professionals.

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