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Farm equipment dealer pleads guilty

A prominent Smithfield businesswoman faces up to 20 years in prison after her guilty plea in federal court on Thursday to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Linda T. Rowland, 60, who operated Rowland Equipment Co. in Smithfield with her husband for more than 30 years, pled guilty to three criminal counts. She must serve a minimum of two years in prison on the identity theft counts, but her sentencing will be set Nov. 1.

From August 2000 through August 2009, Rowland falsified loan agreements to obtain money from several financial services companies, according to a statement filed with the plea agreement.

She used the names and personal information of customers and other members of the community to complete loan agreements for the supposed purchase of equipment from her business, for which she was then paid by the finance companies.

Using the names and personal information of more than 30 people, Rowland was able to obtain more than 80 loans worth more than $1.7 million during the course of her activities.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Virginia State Police and the Smithfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Lee Martin is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.