Two potato-growing brothers in North Dakota are facing federal conspiracy charges for allegedly using Rid-X and portable heaters to spoil their stored potatoes, for which they received almost $840,000 in crop insurance and disaster payments.
A federal grand jury returned a sealed indictment against Aaron Johnson, Derek Johnson and their company, Johnson Potato Co., on Jan. 30. The indictment was unsealed Feb. 11 by a federal judge after the brothers were served in the case.
The brothers grow potatoes for the fresh market, according to the indictment.
A Feb. 26 court appearance is set for the Johnson brothers who are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit crimes against the U.S. and four counts of making false statements. Identical charges are filed against their company and the indictment states the Johnsons worked with “persons known and unknown” to perpetrate the alleged fraud in 2006.
After they harvested and stored their potatoes in a facility near Cooperstown, N.D., the indictment alleges the Johnson brothers poured Rid-X on the potatoes and turned large, portable heaters above 80 degrees to “accelerate the spoilage process in the potatoes.”
They allegedly reported the loss as a natural disaster and collected $680,400 in crop insurance and $159,400 in disaster payments. The brothers continued to lie about the loss through May 2009 to law enforcement officials and others, according to the indictment.