A Bliss, Idaho, farmer will spend the next three years in jail after pleading guilty to bilking his seed customers by selling them conventionally raised alfalfa seed at organic prices.
Bernard Saul, 58, the owner of Saul Farms, was sentenced on June 7 in U.S. District Court. In addition to the jail time, he was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Saul to forfeit more than $1.9 million and pay a fine of $7,500.
Saul pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering on March 29.
Saul’s conviction and sentence arose out of his misbranding and selling conventional, non-organic alfalfa seed as organic alfalfa seed.
Saul faced a maximum prison term of 20 years, a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release for wire fraud and up to 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release for money laundering.
The $1.9 million forfeiture represents the fraudulent gains received from selling the conventional seed for more than what it was worth.
According to the plea agreement, Saul knowingly purchased more than 2.1 million pounds of conventional seed from several seed dealers at an average price of $2.50 a pound and sold it to several customers as organic seed at an average price of $3.75 per pound over nearly six years beginning in 2010.
Also, according to the plea agreement, Saul engaged in monetary transactions with the proceeds of the fraudulent sales. From 2012 through 2015, he made the following purchases with the proceeds of the fraudulent sales: a 438-acre parcel of land in Buhl, Idaho, for $1 million; a 2012 Coachman Freelander recreational vehicle for $20,000 (partial payment); a 2014 Polar Kraft boat, engine, and trailer for $41,553; a 2015 Dodge Ram 2500 Truck for $36,505; and a $90,000 cashier’s check.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the USDA Office of Inspector General and IRS Criminal Investigation Division.
Saul’s wife, Roza Saul, pleaded guilty on March 28 to one count of delivery of a misbranded food product. Her sentencing is set for June 20.