The former owner of a Smithfield farm equipment company pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Linda T. Rowland, 60, was charged with obtaining more than 80 loans for a total of $1.7 million in the names of friends and customers.
An FBI affidavit said that Rowland admitted taking out bogus loans on nonexistent equipment because the business she owned with her husband was failing.
According to the plea agreement, from August 2000 through August 2009, Rowland falsified loan agreements to obtain money from several companies.
Court documents show that Rowland and her husband operated Rowland Equipment Company for over 30 years. Their sons now run the business.
The company was primarily involved in the sale and maintenance of tractors, farming equipment and other outdoor power equipment. The company also assisted customers in obtaining financing for equipment purchases.
Linda Rowland's attorney, Andrew Protogyrou, said in court that his client has been suffering from severe mental health issues.
Sentencing has been set for November 1, 2010. Rowland faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a mandatory minimum penalty of 2 years in prison on the aggravated identity theft counts.
Earning Customers' Trust