The story so far: After a shady 1999 sweetheart deal with the Clinton Administration`s U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than $900 million in cash and debt forgiveness has been provided to complainants in Pigford v. Glickman, the so-called “black farmer” lawsuit. And that number doesn`t count the additional hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees and other expenses—all of it straight out of the taxpayer`s pocket. More than 14,500 individuals have received $50,000 each—or more—for these dubious claims of racial discrimination.
The rest of the story: unreported by the national media, at least two organized fraud rings have taken advantage of the government`s largesse. As many as two savage murders have been committed.
It all began during the Clinton administration when a “black farmer” protest was noted by the White House. With the next election in mind, the Clinton-Gore cabal wanted to tamp down discontent within their base constituency. So Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman suddenly discovered there was “a long history of both discrimination and perceptions of unfairness” in his Department—which he had apparently not previously noticed in the two years he had run USDA. This rash and demonstrably unfounded comment encouraged and facilitated the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit. [USDA Moves Against Agency Discrimination by Michael A. Fletcher Washington Post, March 1, 1997; Page A09. See also Glickman`s groveling speech to the Congressional Black Caucus here and here).
The popular perception following the case`s settlement in 1999 was that the plaintiffs “won” and that the government “admitted” to “discriminating” against black farmers for virtually the entire 20th century. Both perceptions are false. There was technically no “winner” and definitely no confession. The suit was settled by a consent decree. The language of the consent decree specifically says that it may not “be construed by anyone for any purpose whatsoever as an admission or presumption of any wrongdoing on the part of the defendant…”
But there was certainly a loser: the American taxpayer.
I covered the facts of the case in great detail in my book, Harvest of Lies: The Black Farmer Lawsuit Against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Representative Government Press, 2004). I understand my book now has something of a cult following among USDA employees, who have praised its veracity.
Both presiding Judge Paul Friedman of the D.C. Circuit Court (appointed by Bill Clinton) and the Justice Department attorneys representing the government worked together with class counsel to craft the final agreement. The agreement opened the door to perhaps the most massive avalanche of dubious claims ever filed in a civil case.
Incredibly, the Clinton Administration agreed to a settlement that allowed discrimination claims dating back as far as 1981 to be accepted at face value and earn $50,000 each unless USDA could prove them false. The USDA accepted the burden of proof, knowing full well that, because retention time for most relevant documents was only three years, the evidentiary paperwork was already largely destroyed.
Even a first-year law student wouldn`t have cut such a foolish deal. Since absolutely no documentation was required of the claimants, a totally bogus claim—by someone who had never even heard of the Department of Agriculture—could have an even better chance of getting paid than a claim filed by someone who had actually attempted to obtain USDA assistance but who had the misfortune to have his paperwork retained.
Tellingly, of the 14,561 “black farmers” who have been paid so far, only about 200 ever applied for any additional farm loans under the “priority consideration” relief also granted by the consent decree. But virtually every small farmer has to take out operating loans each year. Which leads to an inescapable conclusion: very few if any of the other 14,361 beneficiaries were actively engaged in agriculture. And, of course, they could hardly have been denied a farm loan because of their race if they never applied for a loan in the first place.
The 1997 Census of Agriculture showed a total of just 18,451 black farmers in America. We were told by the black farmer industry`s chief agitators that this meant their breed was an “endangered species,” and that black farmers could well disappear altogether within a decade.
But today, not only 14,561 claimants have been paid but 7,684 claims have been denied. That`s several thousand more filings than actual extant black farmers in 1997.
And that`s just the beginning. The same charlatans roar that denying the virtually automatic payments to an additional 71,000 “black farmers” who were late to file is immoral. Apparently the prospect of billions of dollars is all that is needed to quintuple the numbers of this “endangered species” overnight.
Many of these tardy filers were afraid to file because they feared the whole process was a government “trap” to jail them for fraud. Only after they saw friends and neighbors actually receiving the $50,000 for claims they knew to be phony did their greed overcome their fear—but by then the deadline had passed. The obvious fraud demonstrated by these numbers goes carefully unnoted.
Nevertheless, the court actually encouraged and facilitated the filing of “late claims,” with a promise of serious consideration for inclusion in the case. But following the 2000 election, the overwhelming majority of these late-filers were denied inclusion.
Promptly, three members of the House of Representatives each proposed legislation to reward these tardy would-be bogus claimants with additional billions: Black Caucus member Artur Davis (D-AL), the now-notorious Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), who was defeated once, reclaimed her seat in 2004 and lost it again this year; and Steve Chabot (R-OH), a white Representative from Cincinnati whose district is 30 percent black.
Chabot is an interesting case. After holding a series of shamelessly one-sided hearings on the matter over the past two years, he finally introduced a very short bill, the text of which indicates that he does not even understand the settlement or comprehend the issues involved. But immediately after the bill was filed, John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association, [send him mail] denounced Chabot as a “jerk” and demanded that the congressman “publicly apologize for the disrespect and trouble that he caused” the NBFA and its members. As a final shot, Boyd filled his nonprofit organization`s website with propaganda from Chabot`s Democratic opponent. As Elizabeth Howard of Middle American News commented on the Chabot fiasco in a piece aptly titled Useful Idiot, (not online)”this demonstrates that selling out doesn`t always pay off”. [Under pressure, Chabot backs black farmers` fight for money, By Malia Rulon, Cincinnati Enquirer, ]
The latest initiative was from Senator George Allen (R-VA). Hard-pressed in his re-election bid and reeling from accusations that he uttered racial epithets during his college years, Senator Allen not only distanced himself from the Confederate flag, but also introduced his own “black farmer” legislation (along with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA)) on September 28, 2006 – just one day before Congress adjourned until after the election. Allen and Grassley`s proposal would allow the 71,000 “late filers” to climb aboard the gravy train and have their claims considered.
Even the most trivial and inane complaints by supposed black farmers are routinely covered by media outlets all over the country But these same national media gatekeepers do little to report the strong association that has emerged between Pigford payments and crime.
The Florida Ring
Daniel Ezugo Anekwu, vice president for business and finance at historically black Edward Waters College in Jacksonville FL, pleaded guilty in 2005 to collecting Pigford payments by submitting phony claims under the names of his wife, mother-in-law and another relative. In a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify against others involved in the scam, he received five years` probation with six months of house arrest, and was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution.
Kimberly Colston Woodruff posed as Anekwu`s wife and also allowed Brooks to file bogus claims in her name and those of her mother and son. Woodruff plea-bargained down to five years` probation with six months under house arrest, 150 hours of community service, and $200,000 in restitution.
A third defendant Emma Okari Brooks, 55, who served for a time as Edward Waters College vice president for academic affairs, pleaded guilty to submitting $400,000 worth of phony claims. Despite accepting a plea bargain, Brooks received 13 months in prison and was ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution, because of a long history of other fraud in several states
According to their indictments, soon after the Pigford settlement, Anekwu and Brooks traveled to Arkansas “to learn how to create and submit fraudulent claims“. A Florida Times-Union background piece on Emma Brooks` checkered career noted, “in meetings in churches and other venues around Pine Bluff, Ark., Brooks and other participants were told the settlement was a veiled way to collect reparations for centuries-old grievances…” [String of jobs paralleled trail of accusations By Paul Pinkham and Beth Kormanik, The Times-Union, September 12, 2005] This is yet more evidence that those with no legitimate grievance were nonetheless encouraged to file false claims.
(USDA sources also indicate that black colleges, housing projects and prisons were canvassed in a determined effort to drum up as many claims as possible, regardless of their veracity. How many “black farmers” can there possibly be in inner-city housing projects?)
Government prosecutors refuse to say just how many total claims the three admitted Florida conspirators were responsible for. But their restitution amounts would indicate at least 15 between them. Nevertheless, the Justice Department—which helped craft the Pigford consent decree that made these crimes possible—has decided not to dig any deeper.
The Mississippi Ring
Things were even nastier in Mississippi, where the perpetrators of another organized fraud ring killed and mutilated at least one (and probably another) of their co-conspirators who had demanded a bigger cut of the USDA payout.
Roosevelt Walker and girlfriend Kathleen Nelson were convicted last February in Mississippi of murdering their co-conspirator, a woman named Clovis Reed, who disappeared after being scheduled to testify against them in 2003. Nelson`s sister, Levon Edmond, was sentenced to 25 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to kill a federal witness and testified against the pair in court. Edmond`s daughter, Shunterria Williams, pleaded guilty to perjury in a plea bargain. Joe Lewis Collins has been charged with murder and awaits trial.
Edmond testified that Joe Lewis Collins and Ebony Scott set up a conspiracy to defraud the government in the black farmer case. For each person she persuaded to file a false claim, Edmond received $2,000 from that individual`s $50,000 payment. The person filing would get $16,000 and the remaining $32,000 was split among the masterminds. But Clovis Reed, a “longtime friend” of her killers, got “greedy.” According to Edmond, “she wanted it all.” [Suspect admits she OK`d slaying, By Jimmie Gates, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, January 13, 2006]
The killers cut off Reed`s head and hands, but the body was quickly identified through DNA.
According to Edmond, Ebony Scott was also murdered by Collins in a dispute over their ill-gotten gains and her body buried in a wooded area of Simpson County. “The government has not verified that she is dead, but doesn`t know if she is alive,” advised Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain last January, prior to the trial for the Reed killing. [Search for alleged 2nd body delayed, Jimmie E. Gates, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, January 14, 2006]
But the Justice Department was hardly interested in the Pigford fraud aspect of the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brittain cavalierly stated that there were no plans to seek fraud indictments because “likely the statute of limitations has run out.”
Did Brittain really not know about the statute of limitations—or had he been directed from higher-up not to pursue the matter and expose the magnitude of the fraud and the total amount of money involved?
Machinations in Pigford have cost at least one life and well over a billion tax dollars. Even more importantly, they have provided encouragement for those who continue to crusade for “reparations” to black Americans for slavery, “discrimination” and many other grievances, real and imagined, through fraud and violent crime.