State News

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Turkey workers convicted

RALEIGH – Hidden-camera video secretly shot at a North Carolina Butterball factory farm by an undercover investigator with the animal protection organization Mercy For Animals (MFA) has led to even more criminal convictions of Butterball workers.

On Feb. 22, defendants Terry Johnson and Billy McBride were found guilty of animal cruelty after a bench trial before Judge John H. Horne, Jr. in Raleigh.

In late 2012, Butterball workers Brian Douglas and Ruben Mendoza were also convicted of criminal cruelty to animals arising out of the same investigation. Douglas’s conviction marks the first-ever felony conviction for cruelty to factory-farmed poultry in US history.

All four convictions stem from an MFA undercover investigation at a Butterball turkey semen collection facility in Shannon, NC in November and December of 2011.


Crop insurance adjuster sentenced

RALEIGH – A massive multi-million dollar fraud scheme has landed a crop insurance adjuster in prison.

United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court on Feb. 20 that Chief United States District Judge James C. Dever III, sentenced Jimmy Thomas Sasser, 61 of Wilson, to 48 months imprisonment followed by three years supervised release. Restitution of $21,045,917 was also imposed.

Sasser has been on house arrest since Nov. 21, 2011 when he was arrested on a criminal complaint for threatening a witness.

On Jan. 23, 2012, a three-count criminal information was filed charging Sasser with conspiring to make false statements, to make material false statements, and to commit mail and wire fraud; and retaliating against a witness, victim, or informant. Sasser pled guilty to the charges.

Sasser, a crop insurance adjuster for Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS), received cash pay-offs from 1996 through 2007 to falsify claims regarding the scope of damage or the farmer’s true tobacco production on a particular acreage.

The scheme consisted of adjusters, including Sasser, who would submit a false assessment of loss on a Proof of Loss form which was mailed or wired to the insurance company. The co-conspiring insurance agent would collect pay-offs for the inflated loss adjustments from the co-conspiring farms and would share the monies with the adjusters, including SASSER.

During the course of the investigation, Sasser lied to federal law enforcement officers and also sent a letter to the North Carolina Department of Insurance in November 2010, falsely denying having received money from Robert Carl Stokes. Stokes, an insurance agent from Wilson, previously pled guilty to charges in connection with the on-going crop insurance fraud investigation.

The criminal information further states that on Nov.19, 2011, Sasser threatened to cause bodily injury to two other people, one of whom was a cooperating defendant, in retaliation for giving information regarding the conspiracy to law enforcement officers.