Various media sources report a Chillicothe man faces potential prison time and a hefty fine after pleading guilty in U-S District Court in Iowa. Randy Constant appeared in federal court Thursday and pleaded guilty to a charge of wire fraud in an alleged scheme to defraud that authorities claimed involving the marketing of 140 million dollars of grain as certified organic when it wasn’t. The 61 year old Constant was accused of falsely marketing corn, soybeans, and wheat as “certified organic.”
Court documents show Constant owned and operated Organic Land Management and held the certifications at organic producers in Nebraska and Missouri. He also co-owned and operated Jericho Solutions of Missouri, which operated in the northern district of Iowa, and was selling and marketing grain labeled as organic.
Court documents claim the scheme to defraud took place over the past seven years and involved selling grain labeled organic, but was in actuality 90% non-organic or mixed organic and non-organic. Constant, through the companies, allegedly sold the grains for more than $140 million dollars.
With the guilty plea, media sources indicate Constant agreed to forfeit more than $128 million dollars of property and his interests in farm implements and heavy machinery that were derived from the proceeds of the offense. He has been released on his own recognizance until the time of sentencing in the U-S district court in Iowa.
The long-running fraud scheme outlined in court documents is described as one of the largest uncovered in the fast-growing organic farming industry.
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.
Attorney Mark Weinhardt is quoted in media reports as saying Randy Constant’s profit was a fraction of the $140 million in sales and mostly supported a fish production company that has failed.
The tilapia fish production was formerly done at facilities in Chillicothe and Trenton.
Three Nebraska farmers who sold their crops to Constant pleaded guilty in October to their roles in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.