Twenty-nine Florida residents, including past and present local, state and federal officials, have been indicted on conspiring to steal almost $375,000, the U.S. attorney for northern Florida announced Friday.
According to U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe, the scheme’s leader, Duane Crawson, of Bonifay, Fla., worked as an executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services serving Washington, Holmes and Bay counties in northwest Florida.
The indictment states that Crawson allegedly began a kickback scheme where he and others indicted allegedly stole approximately $373,483 in drought-assistance funds to help livestock farmers who suffered a loss of grazing land during a 2017 drought.
As a Farm Service employee, Crawson was able to submit claims for funding through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
It was determined that Crawson and a select group of associates, including Holmes County Clerk of Court Kyle Hudson and former Holmes County Farm Bureau President Jeremiah Rolling, initiated the scheme and expanded it to include others.
“Crawson received cash kickbacks from his co-conspirators when their drought-relief checks were deposited,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Coody.
All 29 of those who were indicted made a first appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon. Each faces a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of government funds. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Crawson and three others, Davey Mancill, James Paul and Danyel Witt, also have been charged with income-tax evasion and obstruction of Internal Revenue Service laws.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, those indicted are:
» Duane Crawson, 43, Bonifay, USDA Farm Service Agency director.
» Jeremiah Rolling, 43, Westville, investigator with the Florida Public Defender’s Office.
» Jordan Hicks, 36, Ponce de Leon, former Florida Department of Corrections officer.
» Davey Mancill, 44, Westville, Mancill Masonry LLC.
» James Paul, 46, Bonifay, city of Bonifay Public Works.
» Kyle Hudson, 39, Westville, former Holmes County clerk of court.
» Christopher Ammons, 31, Ponce de Leon, a heavy-equipment operator.
» Danyel Witt, 44, Bonifay, U.S. Postal Service clerk.
» Sheryl Gillman, 52, Bonifay, Farm Bureau secretary.
» Shyloe Sachse, 40, Bonifay, former corrections officer
» Tillman Mears, 30, Bonifay, city of Bonifay Public Works.
» Dawn Crutchfield, 48, Bonifay, medical assistant.
» Justin Chopelas, 21, Fayetteville, North Carolina.
» Ronald Roof, 23, Westville, Army National Guard specialist.
» Megan Roof 22, Caryville, hotel clerk.
» Billy Bradhaw, 35, Bonifay, auto-parts employee.
» James Mancill, 48, Bonifay, auto-parts employee.
» Joseph Crowder, 47, of Caryville, brick mason, Mancill Masonry LLC.
» Audry Smith, 32, Caryville, store clerk.
» Brian Ammons, 44, Ponce de Leon, heavy-equipment operator.
» Taylor Stripling, 28, Westville, farm laborer.
» Dawn Roof, 44, Chipley, licensed practical nurse.
» Daniel Boston, 33, Chipley, brick mason, Mancill Masonry LLC.
» Chasity Lee, 31, Bonifay, auto-parts employee.
» Jennifer McCabe, 30, Bonifay, Holmes County Council on Aging.
» Justina Williams, 30, Caryville, unemployed.
» Joseph Alexander, 22, Chipley, poker player.
» Douglas Mixon, 60, Westville, farmer.
» Dwayne White, 49, Bonifay, former city of Bonifay police officer.
The investigation is ongoing, and more charges may be filed, Keefe said.