POMEROY – A federal grand jury has indicted five Meigs County residents on charges of conspiracy, theft of public money, and money laundering for allegedly defrauding the federal Non-Insured Crop Assistance Program.
Carter M. Stewart, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Mark Porter, special agent in charge with the U.S. Secret Service, and Derrick Hurst, acting special agent in charge with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, announced the indictments Tuesday afternoon.
Named in the indictments are: Christopher T. Wolfe, 43, of Racine, Ohio; Michael L. Johnson, 62, of Portland, Ohio; Terry J. McNickle, 51, of Racine; Mark D. Wolfe, 41, of Racine; and Joey L. Jerrell, 43, of Racine.
According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, it was reported that NAP provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occur due to a natural disaster. Payments are limited to $100,000 per crop year per individual or entity.
The indictment alleges that Christopher T. Wolfe recruited co-conspirators to enroll in NAP. The co-conspirators allegedly applied for payments and turned them over to Christopher T. Wolfe after keeping a portion for themselves.
All five are charged with conspiracy, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years, and theft of public monies, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The indictment also charges conspiracy to commit money laundering punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Not all defendants are charged in each count of money laundering or money laundering conspiracy.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of about $1.56 million, which allegedly represents the proceeds traceable to the commission of the crimes.
The defendants will receive summonses to appear in federal court in Columbus at a time and date to be set.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation of this case by Secret Service agents and the USDA-OIG, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Bosley, who is prosecuting the case.
An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
It was in mid-August 2012 when the investigation for possible fraud got under way. At that time, the USDA executed a searchwarrant in an ongoing investigation starting at the Hot Spot gas station located just off U.S. 33 near Portland, co-owned by Christopher Wolfe and Terry McNickle.
It was reported that federal agents stormed in with guns and, with assistance from Meigs County Sheriff’s deputies, raided the Hot Spot. No information was released on the results of the search at the Hot Spot or at home of Christopher Wolfe. All documents were sealed by the federal agent.
The evidence presented before a federal grand jury resulted in the current indictments.