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Feds expand allegations in North Dakota spud scam

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Federal authorities have expanded the scope of their investigation into two brothers from North Dakota accused of intentionally destroying potatoes to collect crop insurance payments.

The original indictment alleged that 50-year-old Aaron Johnson and 47-year-old Derek Johnson conspired to receive more than $800,000 in illegal payments dating back to 2006. Now the government says the potato farmers from the Cooperstown area pocketed more than $2 million in a scam that began in 2002.

The updated indictment accuses the brothers of adding chemicals to the potato seeds so they would not grow and purposely damaging the plants with cultivators.

The Johnsons have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and making false statements. A spokesman for the federal public defender's office says it's a complex case and lawyers are still reviewing the evidence.

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