Judge orders Berbos arrested

Farm Forum

An Aberdeen man who pleaded guilty in June to offering extra employment benefits to an employee in exchange for false testimony in connection to a federal crop insurance investigation was ordered arrested during a July 8 court hearing.

Judge Charles Kornmann granted a federal prosecutor’s request that an arrest warrant be issued for Nickolas J. Berbos, 53, who’s been free on bond pending sentencing scheduled for September.

The prosecution alleges that Berbos has been tampering with or hassling a witness in the case, a violation of his bond.

But it was the fact that Berbos didn’t make it back to Aberdeen for the July 8 court hearing that aggravated Kornmann.

“There’s no excuse for that, in my opinion, and I guess that’s what matters here,” said Kornmann, who also granted a request by the prosecution that a urinalysis be done upon Berbos’ arrest.

Berbos has been in Florida. But, Kornmann said, Berbos was told last week he would likely have a court hearing in Aberdeen this week and should have come back immediately.

Thomas Wright, assistant U.S. attorney for South Dakota, said Berbos was delaying his return because of the prospect having to be tested for drugs. But Greg Magera, who was filling for Reed Rasmussen as Berbos’ defense attorney, said the Independence Day holiday made it tough for Berbos to get home before July 8. Berbos did not expect a warrant for his arrest would be issued, Magera said. And, he said, Berbos was expected to return to Aberdeen late July 8.

That’s when he was to be arrested, Kornmann ordered. The judge then set another court hearing for July 14 to consider claims by the prosecution that he was hassling a witness who previously testified against him. Kornmann also wants to make sure the proper information about the need to return to Aberdeen was passed along to Berbos.

Allegedly, Berbos was pressuring another farmer to whom he leases to switch his crop insurance to Berbos’ agent, according to court paperwork. Berbos implied that switching insurance companies would impact the land lease, according to the documents. And, they said, the other landowner’s insurance agent previously testified against Berbos.

Wright also said Berbos moved to Florida without informing court officials as required.

Berbos was arrested, and on July 10 officials said he was in the Brown County Jail.

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