Crops Fraud Sentencing Set for Dec. 14

Prosecutors Seek Five Years in Prison for Minnesota Farmer on Crops Fraud

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A federal court has rescheduled the sentencing of two Minnesota men in connection with an organics crop conspiracy. (DTN file photo by Pam Smith)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Two Minnesota men have been rescheduled for sentencing after pleading guilty in connection with an organics crop conspiracy to sell $46 million in non-GMO corn and soybeans as organic.

On Tuesday, the sentencing was rescheduled for Dec. 14 at two separate times in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

James Clayton Wolf and his nephew, Adam Clifford Olson, originally were scheduled for sentencing at the end of October before the court abruptly canceled.

After both men were indicted by grand juries, Wolf pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and Olson pleaded guilty to making false statements.

Government attorneys asked the court to sentence Wolf to 60 months in prison, in a memorandum filed with the court on Oct. 5, 2023.

Wolf could face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for a Class C felony. The one count Olson admits to carries up to 30 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine.

"For at least eight years, Wolf conducted a brazen fraud scheme driven completely by greed," the government said in the memorandum.

"While simultaneously operating a farm that more than adequately supported him, Wolf committed more than 200 acts of fraud resulting in almost $20 million in pure personal profit. He abused the trust placed in him by the federal National Organics Program and, indeed, the entire market for organic foods. Much like a massive tax cheat, the defendant simply wanted more than he deserved."

According to court documents, prosecutors are seeking a four-month jail sentence for Olson, the owner and operator of Olson Seed LLC in Windom, Minnesota. Olson's attorneys are asking the court to sentence him to probation.

Wolf was indicted by a grand jury last year on three counts of wire fraud in an alleged conspiracy to falsely sell $46 million in non-GMO corn and soybeans as organic. Twelve of Wolf's farm implements were seized by federal authorities as part of the investigation.

The court allowed Wolf to use his equipment to harvest in 2022 but warned him that he would not be able to have it back for farming this year.

The indictment alleges Wolf grew conventionally farmed crops using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which would be in violation of organic farming standards. Olson was later 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 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.

Read more on DTN:

"Farmer Faces $19.7M Judgment in Fraud,"…

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Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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