A 60-year-old Missouri farmer blamed for running the largest organic food fraud scheme in US history has died by suicide, weeks before he was to report to federal prison to begin serving a 10-year term, a coroner said Tuesday. 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, reports the AP.
Prosecutors say Constant falsely marketed non-organic corn and soybeans certified as organic on a massive scale. His sales equaled up to 7% of organic corn grown in the US in 2016 and 8% of the organic soybeans. Overall, from 2010 to 2017, he sold more than 11.5 million bushels of grain, or enough to fill approximately 3,600 rail cars, prosecutors said. Constant owned an Iowa-based grain brokerage, which sold his corn and soybeans primarily as feed for chickens and cattle. Those animals were then marketed for their meat and meat products that were advertised as organic. US District Judge C.J. Williams said during the sentencing hearing that Constant's fraud did "extreme and incalculable damage" to consumers, who 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. (The AP has more here.)