By Beth Stebner
PUBLISHED: 08:26 EST, 5 April 2012 | UPDATED: 08:52 EST, 5 April 2012
A judge sentenced a businessman to more than two years in jail for knowingly passing off more than 4.2million pounds of corn as organic.
Harold Chase, 55, doubled his profits by falsely labelling corn purchased from conventional corn growers as high-end, USDA-certified organic.
He admitted to pocketing nearly $200,000 in profits because of the improper labelling.
Judge Ann Aiken told Chase on Wednesday that he ‘made a big mistake to commit this crime in Lane County.’
She noted the area’s strong interest in pesticide-free foods, and the community’s trust in the local Lane County Farmers Market to sell organic products.
US Attorney Amanda Marshall said in a news release that the crime Chase committed not only hurt the local community, but the organic industry as well.
‘This defendant intentionally undermined an entire regulatory scheme out of greed,’ she said in the statement.
‘Consumers are entitled to know what they are eating and feeding their families.’
Court documents say that Chase faked documents saying the corn was purchased from an organic farm in Milton-Freewater.
The non-organic corn was used in products that were sold to the public as USDA certified organic food.
Chase concocted the elaborate bait-and-switch beginning in November 2009, nearly doubling his profits, according to the Register Guard.
For corn to be certified as USDA organic, produce cannot be grown with pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, or grown through bioengineering.
Because of the high cost of farming, organic products often go for much more than their non-organic counterparts.
According to the Register Guard, Chase pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud tied to the case in December.
Springfield is about 100 miles south of Portland.