Farmer pleads guilty to lying on loan application, costing lenders $3.3 million

LITTLE ROCK – A Little Rock man pleaded guilty today to making false statements on loan applications, costing banks and lenders over $3.3 million.

Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced the guilty plea of Marcus Shane Sweetin, 46, of Little Rock. Sweetin entered his plea earlier today before United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. Sweetin pleaded guilty Thursday to an Information charging him with one count of making a false statement on a loan application. Sweetin operated Sweetin Farms LLC, which farmed two parcels of land in Arkansas County and Prairie County.

In April 2013, Sweetin applied for a loan from AgHeritage Farm Credit Services that sought to recoup money his company allegedly spent acquiring a Case 290 Magnum Tractor. The tractor itself was to serve as collateral, and in support of the loan, Sweetin gave AgHeritage an invoice from an equipment dealer reflecting the tractor had been purchased outright and a copy of the company check that had supposedly been used to pay.

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The tractor had not been purchased outright but had actually been financed through another lender. The real tractor bore a different serial number, and the check and invoice Sweetin provided in support of the loan were both fabricated. During his plea hearing, Sweetin acknowledged this was only one of several instances where he lied to lenders in order to secure loans for his farming operation. At various points, he sought purchase money for farming equipment financed elsewhere using fictitious serial numbers and invoices, he overstated farmable acreage and understated debt to secure crop loans, and he double pledged collateral.

All told, these false statements secured loans that occasioned over $3.3 million in losses to AgHeritage, BancorpSouth, and Regions Bank. Judge Moody will sentence Sweetin at a later date. Making false statements on loan applications is punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment.

The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alexander D. Morgan.

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