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Farmer Charged in Cotton Picker Case

August 24, 2000

ROCHELLE, Ga. (AP) _ A farmer has been charged with burying his 17-ton cotton picker in a field, reporting the machine stolen and collecting $95,500 from his insurance company.

Curtis Donald Keene, 58, turned himself in Wednesday and was released on $2,000 bail after being charged with making a false statement and filing a fraudulent insurance claim.

The machine _ the size of two garbage trucks _ was unearthed Saturday near Rochelle, a farming town about 75 miles south of Macon.

The cotton picker, measuring 12 feet wide, 12 feet tall and about 20 feet long, had been buried under a 5-foot mound of dirt covered with bushes and limbs.

Keene received an insurance check about a month after the cotton picker was reported stolen.

The investigation began after someone spotted part of the machine sticking out of the ground. Rain had apparently washed away some of the dirt, exposing the traditional green John Deere paint.

A woman who answered the phone at Keene’s home said the family had no comment.

Many Georgia farmers are struggling because of low commodity prices and three years of drought.

Gary Rothwell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation wouldn’t speculate on Keene’s finances, but said: ``Most often in insurance fraud cases I’ve worked, we see the property burn. In this case it was essentially an arson without a fire.″

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