Crime

Wife of Bliss farmer given probation in organic seed fraud case

Bernard Saul and Roza Saul were ordered earlier this month to forfeit a home and 438 acres of farmland in Buhl that were bought with added profits Bernard Saul made selling conventional alfalfa seed as organic.
Bernard Saul and Roza Saul were ordered earlier this month to forfeit a home and 438 acres of farmland in Buhl that were bought with added profits Bernard Saul made selling conventional alfalfa seed as organic. Twin Falls Times-News

The wife of a Bliss farmer who fraudulently sold non-organic seed as organic was sentenced last week by U.S. Magistrate Ronald Bush to three years’ probation.

Roza Saul pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor count of selling a misbranded food product. She had faced up to a year in prison.

Her husband, Bernard Saul, 59, was sentenced earlier this month to three years in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.9 million in profits earned by falsely labeling conventional alfalfa seed as organic. He’s waiting for assignment to a federal prison. That typically takes about six weeks.

Between 2010 and fall 2015, Bernard Saul, under the names Bliss Seed and Saul Farms, sold 7 million pounds of alfalfa seed marketed as organic. The farm was capable of only growing 35,000 to 50,000 pounds of organic seed annually, according to organic certification records he submitted to state agricultural officials.

Saul bought conventional seed from four companies and sold it as higher-cost organic. He charged up to $3.75 per pound for the mislabeled seed after buying it for about $2.50 a pound, according to court records.

For agricultural products to be sold or labeled as “organic,” they must have been produced without the use of synthetic chemicals. In addition, the ground used to grow the products cannot have had any prohibited substances applied during the previous three years.

Roza Saul, 36, is a native of Uzbekistan who met Bernard Saul when he took a seed company tour to Russia, where she was living at the time. They maintained contact and later married. Roza Saul later became a United States citizen.

Although Roza Saul was co-owner of Saul Farms, her involvement in the sales and managerial operations of the business was “minimal,” according to a sentencing memo filed by her attorney, Ed Guerricabeitia.

“Mrs. Saul did not negotiate or make any sales or agreements with any of Saul Farms’ customers,” Guerricabeitia wrote. “Mrs. Saul did not place orders to purchase or sell seed, whether organic or non-organic to Saul Farms’ customers.”

All of her company responsibilities came through direction from her husband, Guerricabeitia said.

“Roza performed whatever duties Bernard asked of her, which primarily consisted of manual labor work around the farm and some bookkeeping work,” the attorney wrote.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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