Fresno County Woman Jyoti Sihota Arrested for Filing Fraudulent Crop Insurance Claims
File photo of grape vines seen at dawn on May 8, 2008 near Bakersfield, California. An Indian American woman in California, Jyoti Sihota, was arrested on charges of filing fraudulent crop insurance claims. (David McNew/Getty Images)
India-West Staff Reporter
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California March 10 announced that Jatinderieet “Jyoti” Sihota was arrested on a federal indictment.
The indictment is charging Sihota, 34, of Selma, with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud for the submission of over $790,000 in fraudulent crop insurance claims, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
The indictment was unsealed following her arrest, the release said.
According to court records, from at least November 2013 through September 2016, Sihota controlled her family’s farms in Fresno and Tulare Counties that produced table grapes, plums and other crops.
The crops were sold through fruit brokers in California’s Central Valley to supermarket chains and other third-party buyers, the court records showed.
Throughout this period, the Indian American and others caused her family’s farms to obtain federally backed crop insurance policies through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency’s Federal Crop Insurance Program. They then submitted fraudulent insurance claims for crop losses due to excessive heat, rain, and other reasons that did not actually occur, according to the release.
Sihota and others, including individuals at the produce brokers through which the crops were sold, altered records to misrepresent the varieties, quantities, and other information regarding the crops that were sold and submitted the records to the insurance program to support the fraudulent claims, the court records said.
These misrepresentations established sufficient crop losses to obtain insurance payments. When the insurance loss adjusters contacted Sihota and others to confirm the accuracy of the representations, they confirmed that the representations were accurate and complete, but in actuality, they were not, it said.
If convicted, Sihota faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the conspiracy and mail fraud charges.