2nd MN Farmer Indicted on Organic Fraud

New Indictment Charges Minnesota Farmer With Wire Fraud in Alleged Organic Crop Sales Conspiracy

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A second Minnesota farmer was indicted by a grand jury for wire fraud for his role in an alleged $46 million organic crop sales scheme. (DTN file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A second man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in an alleged conspiracy to falsely sell $46 million in non-GMO corn and soybeans as organic, according to a superseding indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on Wednesday.

Cottonwood County, Minnesota, farmer James Clayton Wolf previously was indicted last July on the same charges that included three counts of wire fraud for his alleged role. The new indictment charged him with two counts and another farmer with one count of wire fraud.

Added to the new indictment is Olson Seed LLC owner and operator Adam Clifford Olson of Windom, Minnesota. Olson now is named along with Wolf in the new indictment. A superseding indictment replaces a previous indictment.

Wolf and Olson did not respond to DTN's request for comment.

According to the new indictment, Olson sent an email to someone in Pennsylvania describing the amount due for grain sold purported to be organic. Like Wolf, the indictment said, Olson was certified as an organic farmer starting in 2014 until at least July 2021.

Organic crops are grown without the use of either GMOs or chemicals and follow strict protocols in all aspects of planting the crops.

Like the July 2022 indictment of Wolf, the new indictment alleges Wolf sold grain without a grain buyer's license. In addition, the indictment alleges Wolf repeatedly purchased non-organic corn and soybeans from a grain seller and resold the grain as organic from 2014 to 2020.

"It was further part of the scheme to defraud that after Wolf's organic farming certification was revoked in 2020, Wolf and Olson cooperated to sell non-GMO crops falsely described as organic," the latest indictment charges.

"Wolf and others assisting Wolf communicated with the grain supplier and with the buyers by means of interstate wire communication, including by telephone and email. Wolf and his associates sent buyers documentation falsely describing the grain as organically grown."

In addition, Wolf filed a motion on Dec. 29, 2022, to suppress email evidence gathered when a search-and-seizure warrant is executed.

The U.S. government executed a search and seizure warrant on Google LLC for the production of three email accounts allegedly used by Wolf starting in 2014. That warrant was filed under seal, according to Wolf's motion.

"Mr. Wolf became aware of the search after a Google text message to him announced the company's compliance absent a formal motion to quash," the motion said.

"The government has assured your undersigneds that, once the data from Google is delivered, protocols will be in place such that no privileged emails will be reviewed. The search warrant, as written, does not indicate that kind of caution. By its scope of generality and largess, privileged documents will be seized. The warrant is concerning for yet another reason. It signals that the government's investigation was not complete when Mr. Wolf was indicted."

The indictment said Wolf grew conventionally farmed crops using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which would be in violation of organic-farming standards.

Wolf provided grain purchasers with copies of his National Organics Program certification, but according to the indictment, he withheld information the grains were not organically farmed. The scheme resulted in Wolf allegedly receiving more than $46 million in payments from grain buyers.

Wolf allegedly 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; however, the indictment alleges Wolf "utilized an associate" to continue the scheme by selling non-GMO crops as organic. The new indictment alleges the associate to be Olson.

If Wolf and Olson are convicted at trial of the allegations, they would be forced to forfeit property derived from the proceeds of the alleged scheme. According to the indictment, that includes millions of dollars in a variety of bank accounts, a number of tracts of land, farm implements, several pickups and two sports cars.

Read more on DTN:

"Grand Jury Indicts Minnesota Farmer, Alleges He Falsely Sold Non-GMO Grain as Organic," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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