8/20/2019 1:01:00 PM Leader of huge organic food scheme dies by suicide
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A Missouri farmer blamed for running the largest organic food fraud scheme in U.S. history has died by suicide, days after he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, a coroner said today.
Livingston County Coroner Scott Lindley confirmed the death of Randy Constant in his hometown of Chillicothe, Missouri. He said Constant died in “a self-inflicted situation” and said more details would be released soon.
A federal judge sentenced Constant to prison at a hearing on Friday for leading what prosecutors dubbed the “field of schemes fraud.” But he granted Constant the ability to self-report to prison in the coming weeks, after the Bureau of Prisons decided where to place him.
The death comes as federal law enforcement officials are under fire for failing to prevent the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Prosecutors say Constant falsely marketed non-organic corn and soybeans certified as organic on a massive scale from 2010 to 2017. His sales equaled up to 7 percent of organic corn grown in the U.S. in 2016 and 8 percent of the organic soybeans, prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams said during the sentencing hearing that Constant’s fraud did “extreme and incalculable damage” to consumers and shook public confidence in the nation’s organic food industry.
He said consumers nationwide were fooled into paying extra to buy products ranging from eggs to steak that they believed were better for the environment and their own health. Instead, they unwittingly purchased food that relied on farming practices they opposed, including the use of chemical pesticides to grow crops.
Williams also Friday gave prison terms to three Overton, Nebraska, farmers whom Constant recruited to join the scheme. Michael Potter, 41, was ordered to serve two years behind bars; James Brennan, 41, was sentenced to one year, eight months; and his father, 71-year-old Tom Brennan, was given a three-month sentence.
Like Constant, all three were given the option of self-reporting to prison.