DECATUR — Although it’s been six years since Michael Stamp, his farming operation, Stamp Farms LLC, and related companies filed for bankruptcy protection, the legal saga is expected to continue.
Based on legal filings, Michigan Farm News has learned that Michael “Mike” and Melissa Stamp have both been named as co-defendants in a new five-count “Superseding Indictment” on federal charges, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan’s Southern Division on Nov. 14.
Among those charges are the conspiracy to commit bank fraud and crop insurance fraud.
According to those court documents, Mike and Melissa Stamp of the Decatur, Mich.- based Stamp Farms LLC and Northstar Grain LLC “knowingly conspired, confederated, and agreed among themselves and with persons known and unknown to the grand jury, to defraud Wells Fargo Bank,” a federally-insured financial institution.
In addition to bank fraud charges in relation to Wells Fargo Bank, the five counts include conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Crop Insurance Corp., bankruptcy fraud and concealing assets, and bankruptcy fraud by “knowingly and fraudulently making a false oath and account,” allegedly before and during the bankruptcy process.
If convicted, the five charges against Mike Stamp – and the one charge against Melissa Stamp – could mean up to a 30-year maximum sentence and/or fines and a total of $55.3 million in restitution, which includes financial assets.
Mike and Melissa Stamp were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum 30-year sentence and/or a $1 million fine and a monetary restitution judgement of $25 million.
According to the Superseding Indictment and related Penalty Sheet filings, Mike Stamp was also indicted on four additional counts, including:
Bank fraud, Wells Fargo Bank —a maximum 30-year sentence and/or a $1 million fine and a monetary restitution judgment of $25 million
Conspiracy to make false statements to FCIC — a maximum five-year sentence and/or a $250,000 fine and a $5.18 million monetary restitution settlement, which represents the proceeds traceable to the offense
Bankruptcy fraud, concealed assets — a maximum five-year sentence and/or $250,000 fine, and a monetary settlement equal to at least $166,500, which represents the proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly, from the offense charged in the count
Bankruptcy fraud, false oath — a maximum five-year sentence and/or $250,000 fine and an unspecified monetary judgement for restitution
The new indictment “supersedes” an original 14-count indictment filed Dec. 13, 2017, naming Mike Stamp, James Becraft and Douglas Diekman as co-defendants for allegedly conspiring to commit crop insurance fraud and related bank fraud, including fraudulently overstating grain inventories and land-lease documents, which they used as collateral to obtain financing from Wells-Fargo.
The superseding indictment, according to Michigan Farm Bureau’s legal team, is typically filed when new evidence has been found and new charges need to be filed.
Coincidentally, the new indictment comes several months after the two co-defendants, Diekman and Becraft, former employees of Stamp Farms, changed their original pleas from “not guilty” to “guilty” on charges of crop insurance fraud in the original 14-count indictment.
In a July 12, 2018 plea agreement, Becraft agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy for making false statements to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, which carries a maximum sentence of five years; a three-year period of supervised release; and a $250,000 fine and mandatory restitution, which is estimated at $2.65 million, according to court documents.
Under terms of the plea agreement, two additional counts of making false statements related to crop insurance claims were dropped, which carried a maximum sentence of 30 years and/or $1 million fine.
On Aug. 1, Diekman also agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy for making false statements to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, with a maximum sentence of five years; a three-year period of supervised release; and a $250,000 fine, with a stipulation that he could be required to make mandatory restitution, according to court documents.
In exchange, Becraft and Diekman were required to cooperate with the U.S. Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and any other law enforcement agency in their investigation of the charges contained in the original 14-count indictment filed Dec. 13, 2017.
According to court documents, that cooperation will “consist of all steps needed to uncover and prosecute such crimes, including … providing investigators with a full, complete and truthful statement concerning the Defendant's knowledge of any and all criminal activity of which he is aware; truthfully answering investigators' questions; meeting with prosecutors before testifying; truthfully testifying before grand juries and in any court proceedings; and providing all relevant tangible evidence in the Defendant's possession or under the Defendant's control, including … objects, documents, and photographs.”
Court documents show Mike Stamp filed a waiver of personal appearance and entered a plea of “not guilty” on Nov. 19, with a court date set for January 2019. According to court documents dated as of Nov. 6, Mike Stamp was represented by Portage, Mich.- based Scott Graham pllc, a court appointed public defender.
Melissa Stamp, who had previously served a 20-month sentence for related-bankruptcy fraud, has also requested a public defender and is scheduled for a trial arraignment hearing on Dec. 10. She is being represented by the Grand Rapids-based law firm Niewenhuis Law Offices P.C.
Calls made by Michigan Farm News to those offices were not returned.
Both Diekman and Becraft were originally scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 17 in the United States District Court in Kalamazoo.
Becraft’s attorney, however, filed a motion requesting a 30 to 60 day delay before sentencing, citing the need to “review the underlying discovery used to support the loss amount and determine his base offense level as well as the amount of restitution.” That motion was granted, with Becraft now scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 11, 2019.
Editors’ note: Calls made to Michael and Melissa Stamps’ attorneys were not returned. In addition, a call made to Timothy VerHey, assistant U.S. attorney, who was recently appointed to the case, was not returned as this story went to press.