Oregon Man Pleads Guilty for Fraudulent Organic Corn

An ingredient supplier who bought the corn “unwittingly sold the falsely labeled corn to its customers as certified organic corn, who used the mislabeled corn to produce their organic products."

A Springfield, OR, man pled guilty to wire fraud yesterday for selling more than 4.2 million pounds of corn falsely labeled as being organically grown. USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) reports that the man, Harold Chase, 54, had been able to double his profits thanks to the organic claim.

Much of the corn was purchased by companies in Oregon for organic livestock feed. NOP says. One of the purchasers was ingredient supplier Grain Millers Inc., located in Eden Prairie, MN. Chase faces charges of wire fraud after faxing Grain Millers paperwork fraudulently claiming that he had purchased organic corn from a USDA-certified organic grower in Oregon; however, the corn was actually purchased from conventional corn growers. Grain Millers then “unwittingly sold the falsely labeled corn to its customers as certified organic corn, who used the mislabeled corn to produce their organic products, i.e., organic meat and dairy products, and sold such products to the public as USDA certified organic products.”

“This case is the first OIG [USDA’s Office of Inspector General] investigation in Oregon that resulted in criminal charges being filed for National Organic Program (NOP) violations. Nationally, this is the fifth OIG investigation related to NOP that resulted in a Federal indictment,” stated USDA special agent Lori Chan, in a press release.

Chase faces a maximum penalty for wire fraud of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.