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Case 1:18-cr-00036-RWG-GMB Document 1 Filed 02/13/18 Page 1 of 8

FILED
rz ,
2018
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SOUTHERN DIVISION CLERK
U.S. D;STRICT COURT
MOLE DIST. OF ALA.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA )
)
v. ) CR. NO. I: NeA 5‘
) [18 U.S.C. § 1343;
ANNA MARIE KNOWLES ) 18 U.S.C. § 641;
) 18 U.S.C. § IOW ;
) 18 U.S.C. § 2]
)
) 1NDICTMENT

The Grand Jury charges:

INTRODUCTION

At all times relevant to this Indictment:

1. The Farm Service Agency(FSA)was an agency of the United States Department

of Agriculture(USDA). The FSA was tasked with regulating and providing assistance to

farmers and ranchers throughout the United States. National and administrative functions of the

FSA were managed out of offices in Washington, District of Columbia. Implementation offarm

policy through FSA programs was the responsibility of the FSik's state and field offices. The

FSA operated one state office in each state. It operated multiple field offices in each state.

Traditionally, field offices served a single county. During the period alleged in this indictment,

some field offices served multiple adjacent counties. A county committee, consisting of

individuals elected by the farmers within the county(or set of adjacent counties), assisted in

administering each field office.

2. The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program(NAP)was a program

administered by the FSA. It provided financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops

when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occurred due to natural disasters. To
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be eligible for NAP coverage, an individual or entity was required to:(1) be a landowner, tenant,

or sharecropper;(2)share the risk of producing an eligible crop;(3)be entitled to an ownership

share of that crop; and(4) have an average adjusted gross income not in excess of $900,000.

Eligible crops were, among other things, crops grown for food.

3. NAP was funded using government money that was under the custody and control

of the United States Treasury and administered by the USDA's FSA Commodity Credit

Corporation, a wholly owned government corporation within the USDA. NAP was a CCC

program administered by the FSA.

4. To obtain NAP coverage, a producer was required to complete an application for

coverage and submit that application to the field office serving the area in which the insured crop

was to be grown. On that application, the producer was required to specify the crops for which

she was seeking coverage. Thereafter, the producer was required to report to the FSA field

office that the covered crop had been planted, the location ofthe planting, the number of acres

planted, shares in the crop, and the planting date,

5. To obtain payment under a NAP policy, a producer was required to complete and

submit to the field office a notice ofloss and application for payment. On that document, the

producer had to provide the following information:(1)the crop name;(2)the crop type;(3)the

crop's intended use;(4) whether irrigation was or was not used to grow the crop;(5)the number

of acres planted;(6)the disaster that caused the loss;(7)the number of acres affected by the

disaster;(8)the cultivation practices employed on the damaged crop;(9) whether any of the

disaster affected crop acreage had been harvested for the intended use. The producer was also

required to sign a certification stating that she "certifies that all information in [the notice of loss]

is correct, whether personally entered by the producer or another party."

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6. ln conjunction with the submission of a notice of loss and application for

payment, a producer seeking to obtain payment under a NAP policy was required to submit to

the field office documentation to show that the producer had attempted to farm the land. For

example, a producer might submit receipts showing the purchase of seed, fertilizer, or pesticide.

7. After a NAP claim was submitted, it was reviewed by the county committee. If

the county committee approved, then it was reviewed by the field office's executive director. lf

the executive director approved, then payment was made. NAP payments were made by

transfers using wires in interstate commerce from the United States Treasury to the financial

institution account designated by the producer. The maximum that a single producer could

receive for a NAP claim in a given crop production year was $116,500.

S. Defendant Anna Marie Knowles was an employee of the Houston County,

Alabama FSA field office. She worked as a program technician. Among her responsibilities

were administering NAP within Houston County. Specifically, she was responsible for receiving

applications, processing claims, and processing payments.

COUNT 1
(Wire Fraud)

9. The factual allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 8 ofthis lndictment are

hereby realleged and incorporated herein as if copied verbatim.

10. Beginning on or about February 10, 2016 until on or about August 25, 2016, in

Houston County, within the Middle District of Alabama, and elsewhere, the defendant,

ANNA MARIE KNOWLES,

aiding and abetting another and aided and abetted by another, knowingly and willfully executed

and attempted to execute a scheme and artifice to obtain, by means of materially false and

fraudulent representations, money and property, in violation of Title 18 United States Code,

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Section 1343 and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.

MANNER AND MEANS

I 1. It was part of the scheme that:

a. On or about February 10, 2016, Knowles submitted to the Houston County

FSA field office a NAP application. In that application, she stated her intention to grow crops

for food.

b. At some time later, Knowles reported to the Houston County FSA field

office that she had planted more than 44 acres of summer squash.

c. On or about July 7, 2016, Knowles filed with the Houston County FSA

field office a notice of loss and request for payment. In that document, Knowles stated that

"[d]rought, hear was the natural disaster that had caused her loss. She reported that all of her

planted acres of squash had been damaged by this disaster. Houston County, Alabama did not

actually experience drought conditions or unusual heat during the 2016 squash season.

Nevertheless, Knowles signed the certification on the document stating that the information in

the document was correct.

d. Subsequently, Knowles submitted receipts to the Houston County FSA

field office in conjunction with her notice of loss and request for payment. She intended for

those receipts to reflect that she had purchased fertilizer, squash seeds, and chemicals from the

chemical company listed at the top of the receipts. The receipts were forgeries. Knowles had

not in fact purchased fertilizer, squash seeds, or chemicals from the chemical company listed at

the top of the receipts.

e. On or about August 10, 2016, the Houston County FSA county committee

approved Knowles's claim of loss and request for payment. Thereafter, the county executive

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director did the same.

THE CHARGES

12. On or about each of the dates set forth below, in Houston County, within the

Middle District of Alabama, and elsewhere, the defendant,

ANNA MARIE KNOWLES,

for the purpose of executing the scheme described above, and attempting to do so, caused to be

transmitted by means of wire communication in interstate commerce the signals and sounds

described as follows: a wire transfer in the amount of$116,500, made on or about August 25,

2016,from the United States Treasury to Knowles's personal bank account located at a financial

institution in Dothan, Alabama. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343

and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.

COUNT 2
(Theft of Government Property)

13. The factual allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 12 of this Indictment

are hereby realleged and incorporated herein as if copied verbatim.

14. Beginning on or about February 10, 2016 until on or about August 25, 2016, in

Houston County, within the Middle District of Alabama, and elsewhere, the defendant,

ANNA MARIE KNOWLES,

aiding and abetting another and aided and abetted by another, did willfully and knowingly steal

and purloin NAP proceeds to which she was not entitled, having a value in excess of $1,000 and

constituting the goods and property of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States

Code, Section 641 and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.

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COUNT 3
(Making a False Writing or Document)

15. The factual allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 15 of this Indictment

are hereby realleged and incorporated herein as if copied verbatim.

16. On or about July 7, 2016, in Houston County, within the Middle District of

Alabama, and elsewhere, the defendant,

ANNA MARIE KNOWLES,

knowingly made a false writing and document, knowing that document to contain a materially

false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and entry in a matter within the jurisdiction of the

United States Department of Agriculture, by stating on a NAP notice of loss and request for

payment that a natural disaster consisting of drought and heat had damaged all of the defendant's

summer squash crop, consisting of more than 44 planted acres, thus making her eligible for

payment under her NAP policy, when in fact, as the defendant then knew, drought and heat had

not damaged more than 44 acres of any summer squash crop the defendant may have had, and

that the defendant was thus not entitled to payment under her NAP policy, in violation of Title

18, United States Code, Section 1001.

FORFEITURE ALLEGATION

A. The allegations contained in counts 1 and 2 of this Indictment are hereby realleged and

incorporated by reference for the purpose of alleging forfeiture pursuant to Title 18, United States

Code, Section 981(a)(1)(C) and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461(c).

B. Upon conviction of the offenses in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections

1343 and 641, set forth in counts 1 and 2 of this Indictment, the defendant,

ANNA MARIE KNOWLES,

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shall forfeit to the United States, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 981(a)(1)(C)

and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461(c), all proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly,

from the offenses in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 641 including,

but not limited to, a Forfeiture Money Judgment in the amount of $116,500.00, more or less.

C. lf any ofthe property described above, as a result of any act or omission of the

defendant:

(1) cannot be located upon the exercise of due diligence;

(2) has been transferred or sold to, or deposited with, a third party;

(3) has been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the court;

(4) has been substantially diminished in value; or

(5) has been commingled with other property which cannot be divided
without difficulty,

the United States of America shall be entitled to forfeiture of substitute property pursuant to Title

21, United States Code, Section 853(p), as incorporated by Title 28, United States Code, Section

2461(c).

All pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 981(a)(1)(C) and Title 28, United

States Code, Section 2461(c).

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A TRUE BILL:

Foreperson

LOUIS V. NKLIN, SR.


UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

Jon han S. Ross


As istant United States Attomey

evin P. Davidson
Assistant United States Attorney