The former head of a South San Luis Obispo County agricultural chemical company has tentatively agreed to accept a plea deal with federal prosecutors after being accused of forging loan documents in his family members’ names at a number of local banks.
According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Feb. 14, John Mark Moore—who was president of the SLO County Farm Bureau from 2007 to 2009—agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and two counts of making false statements on loan documents.
He faces a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison, followed by a five-year period of supervised release, and a fine of $2.5 million, as well as a mandatory special assessment of $400.
However, according to court records, in return for his plea, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to recommend that Moore be sentenced at the “low end” of those sentencing guidelines, though the definition of “low end” wasn’t made clear.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office plans to recommend the lower sentence “in view of [Moore’s] self-reporting and disclosure of the full scope of his offensive conduct, reflecting an extraordinary degree of thoroughness and candor in explaining the nature of the offenses at issue in connection with preliminary pre-indictment discussions,” the agreement reads.
Also, under terms of the deal, Moore agreed not to attempt to skirt the amount of restitution to financial institutions and individuals—currently estimated at somewhere between $37 and $47 million—by filing for bankruptcy.
According to the federal complaint against him, in March 2004, Moore took over the management of his late father’s business, Moore Agricultural Products. Around that time, he also managed other agricultural businesses that he founded, including American Microtech, LLC; Core Agri, LLC; and CactusBDI, LLC, which were also involved in fertilizer production and related activities.
According to the complaint, Moore soon realized that Moore Agricultural Products didn’t have sufficient cash flow to fund its own operations.
He was allegedly trusted with signing power on the business accounts of his in-laws, including one at the Bank of America in Santa Maria and later at the Rabobank in Arroyo Grande, for which both of his in-laws were co-signatories. According to prosecutors, Moore used this account as a conduit through which he took funds from the in-laws’ accounts and lines of credit and put them into accounts in which only Moore and his father had principal ownership.
Prosecutors allege that prior to September 2011, Moore never informed his in-laws of the activity. During that time, the complaint alleges, Moore diverted approximately $13.8 million from his in-laws’ accounts to accounts and companies owned by himself.
In addition, Moore allegedly forged his in-laws’ signatures on loan applications for personal and business lines of credit without their knowledge. In the case of the business lines of credit, Moore allegedly increased those lines from $1 million to $6.5 million.
All told, Moore’s prosecutors allege Moore’s in-laws were defrauded to the tune of $24.3 million.
But according to the government, Moore’s suspected fraud wasn’t limited to his in-laws. Starting in the early 2000s, he allegedly pulled the same scheme submitting false personal financial statements to a number of local institutions and forging the signatures of his wife and mother in order to secure various loans and lines of credit.
The complaint alleges that those institutions sustained losses estimated at approximately $11.4 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Stern, the chief prosecutor in the case, pointed out that while Moore signed the plea agreement on Feb. 6, the deal has yet to be finalized in the court record, which would likely occur at his next hearing.
Moore’s attorney, Los Angeles-based Jeffrey Rutherford, told New Times that Moore has owned up to his misdeeds and has cooperated with investigators.
“This plea agreement reflects his acceptance of responsibility,” Rutherford said. “Mr. Moore deeply regrets his actions and accepts full responsibility for his crimes and the harm he has caused.”
Moore is currently scheduled for an appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on March 18, according to Arielle Dekofsky, public affairs specialist for the FBI’s LA press office. ∆