Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ohio Woman Arrested in Black Farmers Fraud; Jacksonville Case Reignites FBI Investigation into Arkansas Scam

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ohio Woman Arrested in Black Farmers Fraud; Jacksonville Case Reignites FBI Investigation into Arkansas Scam

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

An Ohio woman has been arrested on charges of conspiring with two top Edward Waters College administrators in Jacksonville to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture by posing as black farmers.

Kimberly Colston Woodruff, 43, appeared Monday before a federal magistrate in Jacksonville and pleaded not guilty to five fraud and conspiracy counts.

Meanwhile, the $400,000 Jacksonville fraud case has reignited a stalled FBI probe into potentially millions of dollars worth of fraud and kickbacks in Arkansas, according to federal officials there.

Former Edward Waters administrators Emma Brooks and Daniel Anekwu admitted traveling to Arkansas in 1999 to learn about the scam, which involved a class-action settlement with black farmers discriminated against in the farm loan process.

"If it hadn't been for the Florida case . . . it would have stayed closed," said Rod Woods, a Department of Agriculture county executive in Star City, Ark. "The pressure has mounted."

Woods said he and several farmers in his county have a meeting scheduled Friday with FBI agents. Among the targets, he and others said, is a Department of Agriculture official that formerly worked in Woods' office.

THE SETTLEMENT

Under the class-action settlement, African-American farmers who were discriminated against qualified for $50,000 settlements with the government. So far, more than $860 million has been paid out, according to a court-appointed monitor.

But many claims were fraudulent, federal officials said.

For instance, Brooks filed eight successful claims from Jacksonville, using names of friends and relatives of Anekwu and Woodruff. When the government checks arrived, Brooks would split the proceeds with Anekwu and Woodruff.

Brooks and Anekwu have pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and face up to 10 years in prison when they are sentenced in October. Woodruff faces up to 30 years if convicted of all counts, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sciortino said.

PLEA AGREEMENTS

As part of their plea agreements, Brooks and Anekwu admitted traveling to Arkansas in 1999, where meetings were held to sign people up for the settlements. …

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