Delhi farmer Thomas “Tommy” Dickerson was sentenced last week to 10 years in federal prison for lying to more than seven financial institutions, insurance providers and government entities so he could steal more than $18 million.
After serving his prison sentence, Dickerson must serve three years of supervised release, according to the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty.
Doughty also ordered Dickerson to pay $18,048,304.71 in restitution to the victims for the money he stole during the course of his crop loan application scheme. Dickerson pleaded guilty July 15.
“The sentence imposed today should serve as a warning to those who engage in fraudulent practices and schemes,” said David Joseph, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.
“Mr. Dickerson’s conduct in this case caused significant financial loss to victims throughout northeast Louisiana. This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana.”
The Franklin Sun and its sister newspaper, The Ouachita Citizen in West Monroe, have reported on the criminal investigation involving Dickerson and several area banks since early 2017 after numerous lawsuits cropped up in state and federal court about the matter.
The allegations in several of the lawsuits centered on Dickerson, whose financial affairs were handled by David Stephens, a tax preparer with Pickett & Co. CPA of Delhi, as well as by Lawrence “Larry” Pickett Jr., owner of Pickett & Co. CPA.
The three banks supporting Dickerson’s operations by allegedly ignoring or circumventing banking regulations are Commercial Capital Bank of Delhi, Caldwell Bank & Trust Co. of Columbia and Franklin State Bank of Winnsboro. Pickett also is the chairman of Commercial Capital Bank’s board of directors.
As part of his scheme to fraudulently obtain loan funds, Dickerson used several farming entities to certify acreage in Catahoula, Tensas, Richland, Madison and Morehouse parishes as well as Ashley, Chicot and Drew counties in Arkansas.
During the 2015 crop year, Dickerson applied for crop production loans and grain storage loans from AG Resource Management; farm operating loans from several banks; credit for crop inputs from seed and chemical dealers like Greenpoint AG LLC and Jimmy Sanders Seed; advances on contracts with Kennedy Rice Dryers; insurance policies and claims from Producers Agriculture Insurance Company and CGB Insurance Company; and several marketing assistant loans through the Farm Service Agency’s Commodity Credit Corporation.
“Dickerson lied on many of these applications in order to obtain loans and other compensation by overstating or understating the amount of crops produced or claiming crops as collateral when he’d already sold the crops or didn’t possess them,” stated the government.
For example, Dickerson applied for a crop production loan from Ag Resource Management in Rayville on behalf of his company, Radar Ridge Planting Co. Dickerson’s application stated an intent to produce corn and rice on some 5,109 acres, but Dickerson reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency that he only planted some 2,737 acres.
“Based on the representations in Dickerson’s application, ARM loaned Radar Ridge (some $2.7 million),” stated documents from the government in July.
“Dickerson knowingly overstated Radar Ridge’s 2015 spring acreage in order to obtain more loan funds from (Ag Resource Management).”
The government’s documents recited several similar instances where Dickerson made false reports concerning the production of commodities, often by overstating acreage in order to obtain more loan funds.
When inspected by federal authorities, some grain bins were completely empty in spite of Dickerson’s reports claiming the grain bins were storing his grain.
The government said the amount of money fraudulently obtained by Dickerson totaled some more than $18 million. The losses reported included Farm Service Agency’s Commodity Credit Corporation (some $4.7 million), AG Resource Management (some $3.7 million), Franklin State Bank (some $2.7 million), Commercial Capital Bank (some $1.6 million), Greenpoint AG LLC (some $3.7 million), Jimmy Sanders Seed (some $342,000), and Kennedy Rice Dryers (some 173,000).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, investigated the case. U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany E. Fields prosecuted the case.