29 charged in huge public contamination scheme;

Kevin Robinson, Pensacola News Journal

Published 8:34 a.m. CT November 15, 2019 Updated 2:08 p.m. CT November 15, 2019

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PANAMA CITY – Federal Farm Service director who oversaw a drought relief program in counties Bay, Holmes and Washington has been announced in a criminal kickback scheme which diverted almost $ 400,000 in federal benefit through false claims, the Attorney General for North Florida today .

Duane Edward Crawson, 43, was a former director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Bonifay, in charge of a conspiracy of 28 people to defraud a federal government's federal drought aid funds, which said the indictment was released today. Most of the conspirators are from Bonifay, but some are from Caryville, Chipley and Westville.

The former Holmes Courts Clerk Kyle Martin Hudson, who was placed in October by a major federal jury in Tallahassee, was also shown to have wired fraud fees to obtain fraudulent travel refunds.

Other people represented include former public works officers of Bonifay city, state correction officers, and investigator with the State Public Defender.

"Our citizens expect public officials to do their work with honesty and integrity," said the Attorney General in Northern District Larry Keefe, announcing the indictment today, one day after the 29 co-defendants have be represented in a federal court in Pensacola. The defendants pleaded “not guilty” to the charges and were released pending their trials, which are scheduled to be trialled for January 6, 2020, in a federal court in Pensacola.

They said that they had breached public trust and wanted to steal and did not really steal from the community they were sworn to serve. The investigation is ongoing, and Keefe hopes that the people charged will co-operate with authorities.

Most of them were charged with conspiracy to make wire fraud, involving a maximum penalty of 20 years and $ 250,000, and government funds theft, which carries a maximum of 10 years and $ 250,000. Identity identity with Crawson and a number of others is also urgently needed, with a minimum of two years and $ 250,000 fines. Crawson also has charges for tax evasion and hindered IRS laws.

"This indictment should send the incredible message to anyone who is thinking in a parallel way to reduce public corruption activity," Keefe said. "If you don't stop we will come to you too."

According to Assistant Attorney Jason Coody, between May and December 2017, Crawson recruited people who knew them as far back as the high school, and encouraged them to recruit others. They filled fraudulent claims for the assistance of drought on livestock and farmland in Holmes and Washington counties that they themselves did not, Coody said.

Crawson filed these claims, and when the federal government deposited the funds into its bank accounts, they brought a cut to Crawson, which came to about $ 103,000 of the $ 373,000 received. Crawson was dismissed in May 2018

"These agricultural disaster programs are designed to help hard working men and women who work hard without producing safe food for our nation," Coody said.

Keefe described the case on Wednesday as "a result of legal alert work at the Solicitors Trust Unit in the US Office," an initiative that Keefe started after taking up office in January.

The indictment is the result of a 20-month investigation including the assistance of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture of the United States and the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit.

IRS Special Agent Ron Loecker said that people engaged in this type of fraud do not usually file their ill-achieved gains on their tax returns.

"By tracking the money from the point of fraud to the end user, agents can picture these complex transactions and the personal benefit the recipient receives," he said. "The beauty of a financial situation is that documents do not change their story, documents do not lie, documents do not go quietly and they do not plead fifth."

The investigation began as a result of information received from a federal employee, Coody said. He would not reveal that person's name.

One of the men was arrested, former Bonifay police officer, Dwayne Frazier White, 49, was arrested last October and FDLE accused him of selling drugs from his squad car.

In the case of previous public corruption investigated by Keefe's office, the City Commissioner of Tallahassee Scott Charles Maddox admitted large sums of money in exchange for favorable actions on various issues that came before Tallahassee city.

Call roll for those indicted:

  • Duane Edward Crawson, 43, former director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Bonifay
  • Jeremiah Joe Rolling, 43, of Westville, Florida; Investigator – Office of the Public Defendant State
  • Jordan Ryan Hicks, 36, of Ponce De Leon, Florida; Former Florida Corrections Officer
  • Davey Eugene Mancill, 44, of Westville, Florida; Mancill Masonry, LLC
  • James Stacey Paul, 46, of Bonifay, Florida; Public Works – City of Bonifay, Florida
  • Kyle Martin Hudson, 39, of Westville, Florida; Former County Court Clerk of Holmes
  • Christopher Marion Ammons, 31, of Ponce De Leon, Florida; Heavy Equipment Operator
  • Danyel Michelle Witt, 44, of Bonifay, Florida; Clerk – United States Civil Service
  • Sheryl Day Gillman, 52, of Bonifay, Florida; Secretary – Florida Farm Bureau
  • Shyloe Rose Sachse, 40, of Bonifay, Florida; Former Correction Officer
  • Tillman Douglas Mears, 30, of Bonifay, Florida; Public Works – City of Bonifay, Florida
  • Dawn Marie Crutchfield, 48, of Bonifay, Florida; Medical Assistant
  • Justin Mikel Chopelas, 21, of Fayetteville, North Carolina; Construction
  • Ronald Ryan Roof, 23, of Westville, Florida; Specialist – National Army Guard
  • Megan Leo Roof, 22, of Caryville, Florida; Hotel Clerk
  • Billy Coal Bradshaw, 35, of Bonifay, Florida; Auto Employee Parts
  • James Erwin Mancill, 48, of Bonifay, Florida; Auto Employee Parts
  • Joseph Matthew Crowder, 47, of Caryville, Florida; Brick Mason – Mancill Masonry, LLC
  • Audrey Lynn Smith, 32, of Caryville, Florida; Convenience Store Clerk
  • Brian Anthony Ammons, 44, of Ponce De Leon, Florida; Heavy Equipment Operator
  • Taylor Ward Stripling, 28, of Westville, Florida; Farm laborer
  • Dawn Marie Roof, 44, of Chipley, Florida; Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Daniel Olajuwon Boston, 33, of Chipley, Florida; Brick Mason – Mancill Masonry, LLC
  • Chassis Lynn Lee, 31, of Bonifay, Florida; Auto Employee Parts
  • Jennifer Marie McCabe, 30, of Bonifay, Florida; Holmes County Council on Aging
  • Justina Rae Williams, 30, of Caryville, Florida; Unemployed
  • Joseph Bailey Alexander, 22, of Chipley, Florida; Poker Dealer
  • Douglas Edward Mixon, 60, of Westville, Florida; Farmer
  • Dwayne Frazier White, 49, of Bonifay, Florida; Former City of Boyne Police Officer

Kevin Robinson can be found at krobinson4@pnj.com or 850-435-8527.

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