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Potato farmers accused of spoiling crop, defrauding government

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Potato farmers accused of spoiling crop, defrauding government
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

FARGO - Federal prosecutors say two North Dakota brothers and potato farmers defrauded the government out of nearly $840,000 by intentionally ruining their crops to collect insurance payments.

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Aaron Johnson and Derek Johnson, farmers near Cooperstown, were charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States for the alleged potato-spoiling plot in 2006, as well as four counts of making false statements.

The brothers’ company, Johnson Potato Co., was also charged.

According to the indictment unsealed this week, the Johnson brothers stored unsold potatoes in a Cooperstown warehouse after harvest in 2006. The indictment alleges the brothers poured Rid-X, a septic system treatment product, into their containers, added rotten potatoes and turned on large portable heaters above 80 degrees “to accelerate the spoilage process in the potatoes.”

The pair reported the loss to their insurance company as a result of natural diseases, according to the indictment. Both brothers continued to insist to federal crop insurers that their crops were lost naturally, as recently as May 2009.

The Johnson brothers’ attorney could not be immediately reached for comment. They are scheduled for their first court appearance Feb. 26.

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Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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