Father, Son Indicted for $862,000 Fraud Against Farmers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a father and son in northern Missouri were indicted by a federal grand jury today for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud farmers in 10 states of nearly $862,000.
Mark Henry, Sr., 50, of Cameron, Mo., and his son, Mark Henry, Jr., 28, of Lucerne, Mo., were charged in a 15-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo.
According to today’s indictment, the Henrys represented themselves as farmers and advertised on Craigslist and other places to sell hay to farmers throughout the United States who were experiencing drought conditions between January 2010 and October 2012. They sold more than $3.2 million of hay, which was advertised as “excellent brome, orchard and timothy hay . . . big heavy bales.” According to the indictment, however, most of the hay consisted of weeds, sticks, bushes, small trees, briars, thistles and woody stems; some of it was moldy and of very poor feed quality.
Today’s indictment also alleges that the Henrys purposely shorted farmers and failed to provide all or a portion of the hay to their customers in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Wyoming and New Mexico. They allegedly demanded farmers prepay for the hay and failed to refund the prepayment to farmers who did not receive hay or who received poor quality hay. The Henrys also allegedly failed to pay for hay they had purchased from other farmers for resale.
In one incident cited by the indictment, a customer from Colorado prepaid $5,000 for 60 bales of hay. On Aug. 11, 2012, she arrived at a field and began testing the bales as they were being loaded. Because some bales tested for high moisture content, they were set aside. Mark Henry, Sr., arrived at the field, the indictment says, and began to yell at them. He told her she could not pick and choose what bales she wanted. He told her, if you take one; you take them all. She told Henry, Sr. the bales she set aside would mold, but he responded he was not going to put up with them picking and choosing the bales and ordered them off his property. She asked for her money back, but he told her he did not have his checkbook with him and his son was in Columbia, Mo. The customer’s son told Henry, Sr., they were not leaving until they got their hay bales or their money back. Henry, Sr. allegedly went to his pickup and obtained a claw hammer and advanced towards the son, threatening to bash his head in. They got into their trucks and left without loading the 60 bales she purchased.
Another victim from New Mexico signed a contract for 6,000 bales and wired $195,000 for 3,000 bales in advance. The customer received 90 bales of very poor quality hay, according to the indictment, for a total loss of $195,975 (including trucking and other expenses).
The hay hauling was advertised at $2.50 per load mile to deliver the hay, which was much less than normally charged. According to the indictment, however, those farmers who contracted with the Henrys to haul the hay were charged almost 40 percent more than the advertised price, and the Henrys failed to pay two trucking companies for the hauling: Glaser Trucking Service ($53,400) and Action Transit Company ($4,400), even though the money was collected from the farmers.
In addition, the indictment says, the Henrys advertised the sale of cattle on Craigslist between December 2012 and February 2013. The cattle were advertised as “front pasture” young cows, from the age of four to six. According to the indictment, however, most of the cows were much older and worth less than younger cows. The Henrys sold 389 head of cattle to farmers from Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa for approximately $538,700. The indictment alleges that approximately $59,700 was fraudulent because the cows were much older and worth less than charged.
According to the indictment, a licensed veterinarian examined 221 of the cows and determined that the age and/or condition of 199 cows was misrepresented. The majority of the cows were worth less than the price charged, the indictment says. The price on the majority of the cows allegedly was overinflated approximately $300 to $400 each.
In addition to the conspiracy, the Henrys are charged together in seven counts of wire fraud and seven counts of mail fraud.
Today’s indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require both defendants to forfeit to the government any property obtained as a result of the alleged violations, including a money judgment of $861,932.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown. It was investigated by the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control, the Putnam County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Putnam County, Mo., Prosecutor’s Office.