The mastermind behind the biggest ever organic fraud in the United States was found dead this week, just days after being handed down a 10-year jail sentence. 

Police found Randy Constant dead in a vehicle at his home in Chillicothe, Missouri, on Wednesday this week. The county coroner confirmed that he had “taken his own life”.

A federal judge sentenced Constant at a hearing on Friday for leading what prosecutors had dubbed the ‘field of schemes fraud’. But he been allowed temporarily to self-report to prison, while the authorities decided where to place him.

Constant admitted to selling more than $142 million of grain he claimed was certified organic when in fact most of it was purchased from non-organic growers.

At his plea hearing he admitted that, between 2010 and 2017, he falsely told customers the grain he sold was grown on his certified organic fields in Nebraska and Missouri, when it was not.

District judge CJ Williams said: “Thousands upon thousands of consumers paid for products they did not get and for products they did not want. This has caused incalculable damage to to the confidence the American public has in organic products”. 

Williams ordered Constant to serve 122 months in federal prison. Shorter prison sentences were given to three other Nebraska farmers.

The farmers grew conventional maize and soya, mixed them with small amounts of certified organic grains, and falsely marketed them as USDA Organic. 

The fraud was so large that it is estimated that accounted for 7% of organic maize grown in the US in 2016 and 8% of organic soybeans.