Former SLO County Farm Bureau prez gets sentenced to 11 years

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The former head of a South San Luis Obispo County agricultural chemical company was sentenced for his role in an elaborate scheme that bilked his family and friends out of nearly $50 million.

John Mark Moore, 51, who was president of the SLO County Farm Bureau from 2007 to 2009, was sentenced in federal court in Los Angeles on Sept. 30 to more than 11 years in prison. Following his term, he’ll also be subject to five years of supervised release, and is ordered to pay more than $46 million in restitution to his victims.

The sentencing follows an April plea agreement between Moore and prosecutors, in which he 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 originally faced a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison. However, according to court records, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to recommend a 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 plea agreement reads.

Under the terms of the deal, Moore also agreed not to attempt to try to skirt the amount of restitution by filing for bankruptcy.

“He was pretty contrite; he was very transparent about all the things he did wrong,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Stern told New Times. “He gave us a lot of information. I think he’s been trying to make amends to the best of his ability, and he doesn’t have any criminal history.

“He got a significant break. It’s not as much of a break as he wanted to get, but like I said, he stole essentially $50 million over a long period of time,” Stern added. “It’s a very sad story for the family, because one of the principle victims were his wife’s parents.”

Asked how Moore would ever pay the amount back to the victims, Stern said he didn’t want speculate, but that it was unlikely they would ever see the full amount recovered.

According to the federal complaint against him, Moore took over the management of his late father’s business, Moore Agricultural Products, in March 2004. Around that time, he also managed other agricultural businesses that he founded, including American Microtech, LLC; Core Agri, LLC; and CactusBDI, LLC, which were involved in fertilizer production and related activities.

Over the course of 11 years, Moore perpetrated a number of schemes that illegally diverted and misappropriated funds by forging signatures on financial loan documents and other means, resulting in a loss of approximately $48.7 million to his in-laws, well-known farmers in SLO County; his father’s business; his family friends; business associates; and at least five financial institutions.

Moore’s attorney, Los Angeles-based Jeffrey Rutherford, couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time. However, he previously told New Times that his client has owned up to his actions and 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 due to report to prison on Nov. 11.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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