Idaho farmer sentenced for misbranding
An Idaho farmer was sentenced to prison Wednesday for misbranding conventional, non-organic alfalfa seed as “organic” alfalfa seed, which he then sold for $1,903,727 more than the seed was worth, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho announced.
Bernard Saul, 58, of Bliss, Idaho, owner of Saul Farms, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 36 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for the crimes of wire fraud and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Saul to forfeit $1,903,727 and pay a fine of $7,500. Saul pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering on March 29, 2016.
Saul did not tell his customers that they were actually purchasing conventional, non-organic alfalfa seed, the Justice Department said in a news release. Saul’s wife, Roza Saul, pleaded guilty on March 28, 2016, to a one-count information charging her with delivery of a misbranded food product. Roza Saul will be sentenced on June 20, 2016.
“Bernard Saul committed a basic fraud,” said Olson. “Businesspeople who misrepresent their product in order to make more money than their product is worth cheat both their customers and honest, fair businesses. This sentence sends the clear message that owners of businesses who cut corners in this way will be punished, and will not be able to keep the proceeds of their crime.”
“The USDA OIG has the responsibility for protecting the integrity of the National Organic Program (NOP),” said Lori Chan, the special agent in charge of the Agriculture Department’s Office of the Inspector General for the Western region. “OIG conducts investigations in each region of the U.S. to deter and uncover criminal activity that undermines the organic program. Producers who engage in NOP fraud exploit the public’s trust by certifying agricultural products are organic when in fact they are not. The OIG at USDA works to ensure the public agricultural products certified as organic are truly organic.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the USDA, Office of Inspector General, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.
Wednesday’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, the Justice Department noted.
–The Hagstrom Report