Eastern Washington Farmer, 72, Fined In Crop-Subsidy Schemes

SPOKANE - A 72-year-old Garfield-area farmer suffering from cancer has been fined and barred from participating in federal subsidy programs after admitting he bilked the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Calvin Raugust was fined $100,000 and prohibited from participating in federal farm programs for five years last week by U.S. District Judge W. Fremming Nielsen. Raugust was placed on a year's probation.

As part of a plea agreement reached this spring, Raugust will serve no time in prison. He voluntarily repaid $212,485 in crop subsidy payments. Authorities said the government has recovered all of the payments, interest and penalties.

U.S. Department of Agriculture investigators said the case was one of the largest farm-subsidy scams in Eastern Washington history.

Raugust set up several different corporations to bypass limits on federal farm-subsidy payments. The limit is $50,000 per person a year for each person with a financial stake in a farming operation.

A hired hand tipped investigators in 1989 that Raugust was using him to fill out paperwork as if he were a corporate officer, entitling him to draw crop-subsidy payments for a farm that belonged to Raugust.

Raugust was originally indicted on 38 counts ranging from mail fraud to witness tampering but pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of using a defunct company to collect grain-storage payments.

The mail-fraud count stemmed from Raugust's admission that he submitted an inflated bill for erosion-control work.

Federal prosecutors also agreed not to pursue charges against Raugust's wife, Leona, if she performs 100 hours of community service.

Attorneys representing Raugust said he had become ensnared by complex farm-program regulations.