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Missouri man who grew fake organic crops for Iowa businessman sent to prison

This news story was published on November 7, 2019.
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Federal courthouse, Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS – A Missouri man who assisted in perpetrating the largest organic grain fraud scheme in United States history was sentenced today to nearly two years in federal prison. Another Missouri man and three farmers from Nebraska were previously sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a scheme to defraud customers across the country.

John Burton, age 52, from Clarksdale, Missouri, received the prison term after a May 10, 2019 guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Evidence at sentencing showed that Burton grew grain that was not organic and sold it to Randy Constant, knowing that Constant was going to market and sell the grain as organic. By selling his grain to Constant, Burton was able to receive a premium, selling the grain for more than he could have on the open market. Burton also worked for Constant, raising grain on farm fields that Constant either owned or rented. While doing this work, Burton often sprayed Constant’s fields with chemicals and fertilizers, even though he knew those substances were not allowed on organic fields. Burton either sold or raised over $5,000,000 in crops for Constant. Overall, Constant’s scheme involved at least $142,433,475 in grain sales, and the vast majority of those sales were fraudulent in that the grain he sold was not organic even though it was marketed as organic.

Burton was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams. Burton was sentenced to 22 months’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to forfeit over $1,000,000 in proceeds from his crime and was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jacob Schunk and Anthony Morfitt and investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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