Two farmers face prison time for crop fraud

An 8-year scheme of selling conventionally-grown corn and soybeans as organic and non-GMO has led two Minnesota farmers to federal indictments, fines and prison sentences. James Clayton Wolf and his nephew, Adam Clifford Olson, have pleaded guilty to charges related to fraud and are awaiting sentencing in the crime that allowed them to pocket $46 million.

Prosecutors allege Wolf grew conventionally-farmed corn and soybeans using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and marketed them as organic products. Although Wolf had a National Organics Program certification that he would present to grain buyers, he was not following the strict protocols associated with organic crops. Even though Wolf’s organic certification was revoked in 2020, he continued to skirt the law and used an associate to market his grain as organic.

Wolf pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and although Olson’s role has not been made clear, he has pleaded guilty to making false statements. Prosecutors have asked the courts to sentence Wolf to 60 months in prison, but he could face up to 20 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for a Class C felony.

“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,” a court document read. “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.”

Lacey Vilhauer can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].