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Springfield Man Sentenced for Selling Corn Falsely Labeled as Organic

Defendant Sold 4.2 Million Pounds of Conventional Corn Falsely Labeled As Organic

April 4, 2012

Eugene, Ore. - U.S. District Chief Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Harold Chase, 55, of Springfield, Oregon, to 27 months of imprisonment for selling more than 4.2 million pounds of corn falsely labeled as organically grown. By falsely labeling the corn as organic, defendant almost doubled his profits, selling the corn for more than $450,000. Much of the corn was purchased by local Oregon companies to produce their organic products.

Defendant, using several aliases and a complex shipping scheme to conceal his crime, purchased more than 4.2 million pounds of corn from a variety of conventional corn growers and sold that corn as organically grown to Grain Millers, Inc., a company based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The sale came after defendant faxed Grain Millers paperwork, fraudulently claiming that he had purchased organic corn from a U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic grower in Milton Freewater, Oregon.

Based on defendant's misrepresentations, Grain Millers unwittingly sold the falsely labeled corn to its customers, including several local Oregon companies, as certified organic corn. These companies used the mislabeled corn to produce their organic products, i.e. organic meat and dairy products, and sold those products to the public as USDA certified organic products.

"This defendant intentionally undermined an entire regulatory scheme out of greed," remarked U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. "He defrauded not only several local companies but also countless consumers. Federal regulatory programs such as USDA's organics program ensure that products are safe and properly labeled. Consumers are entitled to know what they are eating and feeding their families. Violators of these programs will be prosecuted."

"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) will continue to investigate criminal violations related to USDA's National Organic Program (NOP)," said USDA Special Agent in Charge Lori Chan. "Consumers want to feel confident when they buy agriculture products labeled organic. They deserve to get what they paid for. This is the first OIG investigation in Oregon that resulted in criminal convictions for NOP violations. Nationally, this is the fifth OIG investigation pertaining to NOP that resulted in a Federal indictment or conviction."

"Our mission is to ensure the integrity of USDA organic products in the United States and throughout the world," said Miles McEvoy, National Organic Program Director. "Organic agriculture uses natural fertilizers and biological pest control that builds soil fertility and produces high quality organic agricultural products. Organic producers and handlers are committed to this system, and the National Organic Program is serious about protecting that commitment. Our enforcement efforts, including onsite investigations, constitute a critical part of that mission. This incident reveals why recordkeeping and auditing are such integral components of the organic certification system. We urge certified operations to continue due diligence in reviewing suppliers - records and working with their certifiers closely."

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott E. Bradford.

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