Convicted leader of US organic fraud ring dies by suicide

Convicted leader of US organic fraud ring dies by suicide

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Missouri farmer and businessman Randy Constant was sentenced 4 days earlier

The man who ran the largest known organic food fraud scheme is U.S. history has died by suicide four days after he was sentenced in the case.

Missouri farmer and businessman Randy Constant, 61, was found dead in his car in the garage of his home on August 20. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Scott Lindley, Livingston County coroner, who said the cause of death was confirmed by a post-mortem examination at the University of Missouri Medical Center.

On August 16, Constant was sentenced to serve 122 months in federal prison for his part in the false marketing of $140 million worth of corn, soybeans and wheat as certified organic grains.

Constant was owner of Organic Land Management, which held U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) certificates to produce organic corn and soybeans in Missouri and Nebraska. He also owned Jericho Solutions, of Ossian, Iowa, which sold and marketed grain labeled as organic to customers nationwide.

According to court documents, Constant told his customers his grain had been grown on his farms in Missouri and Nebraska and was certified organic. But the documents allege that 90% of the grain was non-organic and that he either grew it himself elsewhere or bought it from other non-organic farmers. Court documents also say Constant was aware that farmers he purchased the grain from used substances like pesticides and nitrogen to grow their crops.

Constant sold more than $142.4 million worth of falsely marketed grain to at least 10 customers across the U.S between 2010 and 2017. The entire scheme allegedly began at least as early as 2004. In mid-2017, Constant voluntarily surrendered his certificate to operate in the USDA’s National Organic Program.

Three Nebraska farmers who sold their crops to Constant and pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme were given shorter prison terms.

Michael Potter, 41, was sentenced to 24 months in prison; James Brennan, 41, was sentenced to 20 months; and Tom Brennan, 71, was sentenced to three months.

All four of the men have cooperated with a two-year investigation that is still underway. A fifth farmer has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.