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Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane in Denver last week ordered three San Luis Valley potato producers to turn over their records to an investigator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The three producers, namely Bigelow Associated Farms Inc., JB Farms and Ken Burback, all of the Center area, are being investigated on suspicion of crop insurance fraud involving up to $1.3 million. The three producers are suspected of filing phony insurance claims in a USDA program that insures agricultural producers against crop losses caused by disasters such as hail, rain and drought. According to the court filing, ‚€œThe government believes that the three farms sold potatoes that they had claimed as a loss to the insurance provider,‚€Ě in the crop loss program. The government alleges that by selling the potatoes, the producers were not entitled to receive the insurance payments. The judge‚€™s order requires that the producers appear on October 22nd at the Lakewood regional office of the inspector general with their records. The judge issued the order because the investigator in the case alleges that the three growers have repeatedly failed to comply with subpoenas for records since April.
A daylong preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 5th, for Cody Lakey, 27, of Alamosa. Lakey is charged with the September 5th death of his daughter Alexis who was almost 7 months old. Alamosa Judge Pattie Swift is handling the case in Alamosa County Court because County Court Judge Michael Gonzales disqualified himself because of his work in the district attorney‚€™s office before his appointment to the bench. Judge Swift will also handle the case when it moves on to district court. Lakey is in custody on a murder charge and child abuse resulting in death following the death of his daughter at the family home in Alamosa. The child was initially injured on September 3rd and was then transported to Denver where she died on September 5th from her injuries. The child was reportedly in the care of her father while her mother was at work.
A 15-year-old girl from Cotopaxi died on Saturday in Westcliffe after she fell from a semi tractor-trailer and was run over in Westcliffe. According to the Colorado State Patrol, the girl, whose name was not released at the request of her parents, was walking next to a float pulled by a 1995 Kenworth in Custer County High School‚€™s homecoming parade when she tried to climb onto the trailer by some steps attached to the tractor. The girl fell off of the Kenworth and was run over by its dual tires. She was flown to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs where she was pronounced dead at 12:20pm. The accident occurred about 10:35am in the 100 block of Main Street in Westcliffe. Charges are not expected to be filed against the driver.
A structure fire was reported to the Monte Vista Fire Department at C.J. Sports, 1325 North Broadway, at 4:49pm Friday. The building was reportedly fully engulfed in flames when the fire department arrived. Witnesses reported hearing a possible explosion just before the fire erupted, however, the incident is still under investigation. The business specialized in ATV sales and service. There were at least three cars and a number of ATV‚€™s in the building when the fire broke out. The building and its contents appear to be a total loss.
The Rattlesnake Fire, which broke out near Rye last Thursday, officially consumed 19 acres. Firefighters had the fire 100% contained by about 7am on Friday morning, however crews remained on site to extinguish hot spots and smoldering areas. 10 different agencies responded to the fire and helped in putting it out. Rye High School, Rye Elementary School and Craver Middle School were all closed on Friday, however, classes at all three schools are schedule to resume today. Total firefighting costs and a total for damages are expected to be released this week.