DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - The U.S. Department of Justice has uncovered an alleged squash scam in south Alabama that has resulted in an indictment against a U.S. government employee.
Anna Marie Knowles, 36, of Headland, has been arrested and charged with multiple federal crimes, according to U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin, Sr., including wire fraud, theft of government property, and using a false document in a matter under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Knowles was employed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency office in Dothan. An indictment indicates she was responsible for administering federal crop insurance programs in Houston County.
Franklin said Knowles was carrying out a crop insurance fraud scheme when in 2016 she obtained crop insurance through a federal program.
The program, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), is a USDA program that provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planning occur due to a natural disaster.
The indictment accuses Knowles of ensuring a crop of summer squash that she was planning to grow on land in Houston County. She filed a claim through the federal crop insurance program, then falsely reported that a drought had caused her to lose the majority of the crop.
She's also accused of submitting forged receipts to establish that she had spent money to purchase squash seed and fertilizer. Authorities say that after she filed the claim, Knowles then fraudulently obtained $116,500 through NAP.
If convicted of the most serious charge, Knowles faces a maximum sentence of 20 years' in federal prison. She also faces substantial monetary penalties and restitution.