Harold Chase, 54, of Springfield, OR is facing up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
His crime was one count of wire fraud for falsely labeling regular corn as organic corn in a $450,000 sale.
He pleaded guilty to the offense and will be scheduled next Feb. 12.
The sale of 4.2 million pounds of corn was to Eden Prairie, MN-based Grain Millers Inc. It became the federal crime of wire fraud when Chase faxed Grain Millers Inc. the paperwork claiming the shipment involved organic corn from a USDA-certified organic grower in Milton Freewater, OR.
Federal prosecutors say Chase was using seveal aliases to conceal his schedule, purchasing the “organic corn” from several conventional corn growers.
Grain Millers Inc., in turn, mislabeled the corn as “organic.”
Amanda Marshall, U.S. District Attorney for Oregon, said the integrity of USDA’s organic program was at stake. She promised that USDA’s Office of the Inspector General would continue to investigate such offenses to make sure consumers get what they pay for.
Marshall said this is the fifth federal indictment for violations of the National Organic Program.© Food Safety News