Settlement may be looming in Witmer’s grain lawsuit

COLUMBIANA, Ohio — A civil lawsuit connected to allegations of wrongdoing regarding grain handling at Witmer’s Feed and Grain, Inc. may soon be over.

A tentative settlement has been reached in a civil lawsuit filed by Witmer’s Feed and Grain against a former employee, Donald Curfman.

Mediation hearing

The two parties met for a mediation hearing Sept. 24 in Mahoning County. A representative for Atty. Michael J. McGee, who is an attorney for Witmer’s Feed and Grain, confirmed a tentative settlement has been reached, however, details of the lawsuit could not be released until the settlement is finalized by the court.

Also listed in the lawsuit is Belinda Ingledue and Richard Curfman, both of Minerva.

A separate investigation by the Ohio Department of Agriculture into any possible violations of the grain warehouse law uncovered no infractions.

The lawsuit was field in July 2008 against Donald Curfman Jr. and his wife, Bonnie Curfman, of Lisbon.

Curfman Jr. had worked at Witmer’s since 1993 and retired in March 2008. He served as the manager of Witmer’s Garfield Mill.

Alleged scheme

According to the lawsuit filed, Curfman is accused of issuing grain tickets to Ingledue without actually receiving any grain from her as part of a scheme to defraud Witmer’s. The alleged thefts are believed to have occurred from 2003 to 2007. The duo are alleged to have split proceeds totaling more than $900,000.

Grain tickets

Curfman is also accused of issuing fake grain tickets to himself between 2004 and 2008 and collecting more than $200,000 in compensation.

The lawsuit says that Witmer’s began questioning Donald Curfman Jr. about the grain shortage in November 2005 after a fake paper trail was allegedly created by Curfman to account for the grain transfers that never happened.

Curfman’s wife and brother are also included in the lawsuit because they are believed to have known about the scheme.

Lawsuit demands

According to the lawsuit, Witmer’s is demanding more than $25,000 in collections and assets owned by Curfman that they believe to have been purchased with the money gained through the alleged scheme. The lawsuit is also seeking assets including a home built in 2006, which caught fire May 7, 2009.

ODA investigation

In the meantime, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has concluded its investigation into the allegations. The ODA is the regulator of all licensed grain handling facilities and completes investigations like this when allegations are made.

The investigation included an onsite audit of the site inventory and a look into the bookkeeping records.

Kayleigh Frazier, department spokesperson, said Witmer’s Feed and Grain Inc. was found to be in compliance with the state grain warehouse law.

She added no violations were found in the business’ records during the investigation.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

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