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Satellite technology, which takes images at roughly eight-day intervals, can be used to monitor when farmers plant their acreage, how they irrigate them and what crops they grow. If anomalies are found in a farm's insurance claim, investigators can search satellite photos dating back years to determine cropping practices on individual fields.
What's catching the attention of Barnaby and others is a spate of recent cases involving the use of satellite imaging to prosecute farmers. The largest so far has been a North Carolina case in which a couple faked weather damage to their crops by having workers throw ice cubes onto a tomato field and then beat the plants.
In September, Robert Warren was sentenced to six years and four months in prison, while his wife, Viki, was sentenced to five years and five months. They were also ordered to forfeit $7.3 million and pay $9.15 million in restitution.
The Warrens and at least three other defendants pleaded guilty. But in one related trial that went to a jury, prosecutors used satellite images and testimony from a satellite image analyst to present their case.
"It was impressive to the jury to have this presentation about this eye in the sky and satellite imagery and a trained expert," said Richard Edwards, the assistant U.S. Attorney in North Carolina who prosecuted the case. "In our case it did not make the case, but it sure helped and strengthened and improved the case."