A Chillicothe farmer will not spend time behind bars after pleading guilty last December to his role in the fraudulent sale of grains. The Kansas City Star reports that a federal judge sentenced 57-year-old Steven Whiteside to three years probation and a $45,000 fine for his role in a long-running scheme involving grains that were falsely labelled as organic. Federal prosecutors had recommended Whiteside spend a year in prison and pay a larger fine, but his attorney had argued that Whiteside had a clean record and family obligations.
Whiteside admitted in December to receiving $177,000 from the sale of grain to animal feed producers who had paid a higher price, believing that the grain was certified organic. The scheme had been originated by Randy Constant, who had spent a decade misleading consumers into thinking he was selling organic-certified grain when it was conventionally grown. The 60-year-old Constant died by suicide in August 2019, days after being sentenced to ten years in federal prison on one count of wire fraud. Consumers impacted by Constant’s fraud spent $142 million on the mislabeled grains, and prosecutors said the scheme had undermined consumer confidence in the organic food industry.
While Whiteside will avoid prison time, another farmer from Missouri and three from Nebraska have received prison sentences for their role in the scheme.