Protecting the Integrity of Crop Insurance
June 6, 2023
RMA’s Compliance team is responsible for safeguarding the integrity of the Federal crop insurance program by assessing and investigating program vulnerability to abuse. Every year, they do a stellar job of following up on reports of fraud and working with local authorities.
I recently talked with one of those employees, Justin Voorhees, who works in Eagan, Minnesota. Justin grew up in a small town in Tennessee, served in the U.S. Air Force, and earned a bachelor’s degree in social and criminal justice.
RMA’s Justin Voorhees, Special Investigator
Northern Regional Compliance Office
“After my active-duty service, I worked in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a few years,” Justin says. “It was in a regulatory compliance position related to my military background, but then I discovered RMA!”
Justin has been with our agency for seven years, first with the Northern Regional Compliance Office (NRCO) and currently with the Special Investigations Staff as a Special Investigator.
“I enjoyed the exposure I had to agriculture and horticulture when growing up and have always respected the work of law enforcement,” he shares. “My responsibilities at RMA offer a unique level of exposure to these fields.”
Justin’s duties for RMA include conducting complex, high profile, multi-regional and multi-agency investigations that involve the federal crop insurance program.
“I typically work with federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors during investigations to gather evidence, conduct interviews, and piece together all the facts,” he says. “When we find evidence of fraud, I present our findings to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for consideration of prosecution or litigation.”
His experience and skills have been invaluable, particularly at the end of 2020, when he began investigating a case that involved two individuals, a father and son, from Pierre, South Dakota.
“We received allegations of crop insurance fraud and Coronavirus Relief Fund fraud,” he recalls. “We found a pattern across multiple years where the two individuals falsely reported planting crops and filed fraudulent crop insurance claims on the crops they never planted.”
Last June, I visited the NRCO in Minnesota and met with Justin. He explained the facts of the case to me. His team assisted the USDA Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Dakota prosecuted the case.
This past January, after a six-day trial, a jury found both defendants guilty of crop insurance fraud. I attended the sentencing hearing where the individuals received a combined 42 months of imprisonment and ordered to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution to RMA.
“The work we do in compliance and Special Investigations is important because of the program’s reliance on honesty,” Justin says. “I believe we owe it to America’s producers and taxpayers to protect the integrity of the program and hold people accountable when they defraud or abuse it.”
Our team of professionals and leaders in the Special Investigations Staff brings diverse backgrounds and unique skillsets to RMA. Justin tells me he finds the work rewarding and is proud to be part of this agency.
“What I enjoy most about my work is the people I get to work with and the challenging nature of the job,” he shares. “I’ve had the opportunity to work in one way or another with people in most of RMA’s divisions and teams. I also get to work with stakeholders in other USDA agencies, several different federal and state agencies, and throughout the crop insurance industry.”
Every day, Justin and our colleagues supporting Compliance operations work hard to ensure we continue to have the American public’s trust in what we do. I am so grateful for their skills and dedication!
Marcia Bunger is the Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). Prior to her appointment, she served as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. A native South Dakotan, Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre farm, a cum laude graduate of Augustana College, and the first member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and first woman to serve as RMA Administrator.