“A gross betrayal of consumer trust”
| Des Moines Register – A farmer who owned an Iowa grain brokerage has pleaded guilty to false marketing of $140 million dollars’ worth of corn, soybeans and wheat as “certified organic.”
Sixty-one-year-old Randy Constant of Chillicothe, Missouri, pleaded guilty to wire fraud Thursday under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Cedar Rapids.
Constant faces a potential prison sentence of 12 years or more, but that could be reduced at sentencing due to his ongoing cooperation.
“Long-running fraud scheme”
The deal calls for Constant to forfeit $128 million, but his lawyer says he’s broke.
Attorney Mark Weinhardt says Constant’s profit was a tiny fraction of the $140 million in total sales and mostly supported a sustainable fish production company that has failed.
Weinhardt says Constant “accepts full responsibility” for falsely representing that grain he sold was organic.
The long-running fraud scheme outlined in court documents by prosecutors in Iowa is one of the largest uncovered in the fast-growing organic farming industry.
The victims included food companies and their customers who paid higher prices because they thought they were buying grains that had been grown using environmentally sustainable practices …
Constant was aware that farmers he purchased from used unapproved substances, including pesticides and nitrogen, to grow their crops, the document says.
Constant sold more than $142.4 million worth of falsely marketed organic grain to at least 10 customers nationwide between 2010 and mid-2017, when he voluntarily surrendered a certificate to operate in the USDA’s National Organic Program.
The scheme allegedly dates back to at least 2004, but additional sales figures weren’t available. Read more.
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