Date: April 19, 2023 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Des Moines, IA — A Sigourney man pleaded guilty on April 17, 2023, to mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to court records, Mark Lynn Haines engaged in a scheme to defraud and obtain money from 2015 to 2018 concerning sales of grain as organic, when in fact, the grain was grown in violation of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP). NOP is a federal regulatory program governing organic agricultural products. Key among Haines' NOP violations were the use of treated seed, which is prohibited by NOP. Haines concealed his NOP violations from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), the organic certifier. The grain was then sold by Haines to a number of unwitting purchasers. Haines also conspired to impede and obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the assessment and collection of income taxes. Between April 2017 to April 2019, Haines obtained false invoices, backdated checks, and exchanged checks to give the appearance of an expense that was not in fact incurred. This conduct increased Haines' expenses and decreased Haines' federal income taxes. "The USDA Organic Seal is a symbol of trust and confidence amongst consumers seeking to purchase organically grown produce. When farmers, like Haines, subvert NOP and its regulations, they compromise the integrity of the program and impair USDA's ability to protect the health and value of American agriculture," said Special Agent-in-Charge Shantel R. Robinson, USDA, Office of Inspector General, Midwest Region. Haines is scheduled to be sentenced on August 18, 2023. A related defendant, Daniel DeRycke, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, and is also pending sentencing. A federal district court judge will determine the sentences of Haines and DeRycke after considering the United States Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal of the Southern District of Iowa made the announcement. The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the United States Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) revoked Haines' organic certificate in 2018 due to several NOP violations and assisted the federal agents in the investigation and the prosecution of the case.