A judge has handed down sentences to four people who led the largest known organic food fraud scheme in U.S. history.
Missouri farmer and businessman Randy Constant was sentenced Friday to serve 122 months in federal prison.
False marketing of organic grains
In December 2018, Constant was charged with one count of wire fraud in connection with 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.
Others receive shorter sentences
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.
The judge in the case said Tom Brennan, the father of James Brennan, received a shorter sentence due to his heroism as a decorated platoon leader in the Vietnam War.
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.