Public Safety

Another Missouri man charged in fake organic grain scheme

Defendants defrauded millions, prosecutors say

(Dreamstime/TNS)
(Dreamstime/TNS)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A second Missouri man involved in selling non-organic grain as organic for millions of dollars throughout the country will take a plea deal in federal court in a few weeks.

John Burton, 52, of Clarksville, Mo., will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and prosecutors are asking for a forfeiture of at least $2.2 million — proceeds from the fraudulent grain scheme that started in January 2010 and continued through 2017.

Burton sold non-organic grain to Randy Constant, 61, of Chillicothe, Mo., who would sell the grain through his brokerage, Jericho Solutions, in Ossian, Iowa, according to court documents. Both Burton and Constant knew the grain was grown in non-organic fields or grown with unapproved substances.

Constant was convicted last year of one count of wire fraud. He admitted the fraudulent scheme involved at least $142.43 million in grain sales, and the majority of those sales were fraudulent, according to court documents.

Prosecutors previously said the scheme involved tens of millions worth of non-organic grain being sold as organic products throughout the country and involved numerous victims.

Court documents show one wire payment of $419,418 from a customer in Sonora, Calif.

Prosecutors usually don’t include every incident of wire fraud in the charging information.

Constant, during a plea hearing in December, admitted that he misled customers into thinking they were buying certified organic grain. He also admitted to telling customers the grain was grown on his certified organic fields in Nebraska and Missouri even though he purchased the grain from other growers.

Constant allegedly made many of the fraudulent sales through Jericho Solutions, which he co-owned and operated primarily out of Ossian in Winneshiek County in northeast Iowa.

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Court documents show both businesses marketed and sold grain labeled as organic to customers nationwide.

Constant also forfeited $128.19 million in proceeds as part of his plea agreement.

In related cases, three farmers from Nebraska were previously convicted of fraud involving sales of grain fraudulently marketed as organic, according to court documents. Each of the farmers received more than $2.5 million from sales of the fraudulent grain.

Constant faces up to 20 years in federal prison. His sentencing hasn’t been set at this time.

Burton is set to plead guilty May 10 in U.S. District Court. If convicted, he also faces up to 20 years in prison.

• Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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