LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Prosecutors have recommended an eight- to 14-month prison sentence for a Minnesota man who pleaded guilty to making false statements as part of an alleged organic crops conspiracy.
Adam Clifford Olson and James Clayton Wolf are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
Attorneys for Olson this week asked the court to sentence him to probation.
"Mr. Olson admits that he made a false statement in a federally subsidized crop insurance application," Olson's attorneys said in a court filing on Wednesday.
"He acknowledges his offense and fully accepts responsibility for his actions and the resulting consequences. He made no money and realized no economic gain from his conduct but committed a crime nonetheless.
"As discussed more fully below, Mr. Olson's misconduct arose in the context of a fraud perpetrated by his maternal uncle and godfather who sold conventionally grown grain as organic. Contrary to earlier suggestions (including the superseding indictment filed in this case) Mr. Olson was totally unaware of his uncle's misconduct until well after the fact."
Olson agreed to pay $69,380 in restitution to USDA, which represents premium subsidies and cost reimbursements paid by the government in connection to 2020 crop insurance. Olson owns and operates a seed company.
Olson's uncle, Cottonwood County, Minnesota, farmer James Clayton Wolf, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in May 2023 for his role in a scheme to falsely sell $46 million in non-GMO corn and soybeans as organic. Wolf was indicted by a grand jury last year on three counts of wire fraud.
According to Olson's plea agreement, he admits that he misrepresented the extent of his involvement in Wolf's farming operation when Olson applied for crop insurance in April 2020 for organic crops farmed by Wolf.
The one count Olson admits to carries up to 30 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine.
According to the indictment, Wolf grew conventionally farmed crops using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which would be in violation of organic farming standards. Olson was added to the indictment for his alleged role in the scheme.
For years, Wolf provided grain purchasers with copies of his National Organics Program certification, but according to the indictment, he withheld information that the grains were not organically farmed. The scheme resulted in Wolf allegedly receiving more than $46 million in payments from grain buyers.
The indictment alleged Wolf directed some grain payments to a third party who then "spent the money for Wolf's benefit." His organic farming certification was revoked in 2020. The indictment, however, alleges Wolf "utilized an associate" to continue the scheme by selling non-GMO crops as organic.
Wolf and other associates communicated with a grain supplier and with buyers via email and telephone, including sending documents "falsely describing" the grain as organically grown.
Organic crops are grown without the use of GMOs or chemicals, and farmers are required to follow strict protocols when it comes to planting, fertilizing, harvesting, storage and transportation of the crops labeled as organic.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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