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Idaho State News

Eastern Idaho Farmers Pay $500,000 to Resolve Allegations They Defrauded the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Boise, Idaho – U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced today that Merrill Hanny, Roger Burke, and Robert Sollis, three farmers in Eastern Idaho, have paid a total of $500,000 to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting fraudulent Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) applications.  CFAP was intended to provide direct support to farmers and ranchers to offset losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The settlement resolves allegations that Hanny, Burke, and Sollis knowingly and impermissibly included millions of pounds of potatoes on Burke’s and Sollis’ CFAP applications that were actually owned by Hanny.  In this way, Burke and Hanny obtained CFAP funds that they were not eligible to receive, and Hanny was able to circumvent the $250,000 cap on CFAP funds they he could receive.

“The vast majority of Idahoans who applied for CFAP funds played by the rules,” said U.S. Attorney Hurwit.  “Unfortunately, some individuals have sought to line their pockets by defrauding taxpayer-funded pandemic relief programs like USDA’s CFAP program.  We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to pursue and hold such individuals accountable.”

The settlement is a result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho.

For more information on the Department of Justice’s response to the pandemic fraud, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone who suspects fraud or other wrongdoing related to the pandemic should report it to the COVID-19 Pandemic Fraud Hotline at www.pandemicoversight.gov/contact/about-hotline, by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721, or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at:  www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Idahoans are also encouraged to report COVID-19 fraud directly to the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (208) 334-1211.

The claims resolved by the settlement described above are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

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