Federal prosecutors opt not to re-try potato case

By the Herald staffJune 18, 2013 

Federal prosecutors have decided not to re-try a Kennewick insurance agent and four Mid-Columbia potato growers and packers after a jury deadlocked on three charges they defrauded the federal government.

The decision, filed Tuesday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Tornabene, comes nearly two weeks after the lengthy trial wrapped up in Eastern Washington's U.S. District Court before Judge Ed Shea.

Those originally charged were: potato growers or processors Lynn J. Olsen II, Blake T. Bennett and Jeffrey J. Gordon, all of Pasco, and Mark G. Peterson of Richland; and insurance agent Fred F. Ackerman.

They were accused of conspiring to collect more than $9.6 million in insurance payments by overvaluing crops on insurance forms.

The indictment also named companies that the farmers and processors either owned or had ties to: Olsen Ag, Tri-Cities Produce and Poco.

They were acquitted on one count of false application to willfully overvalue crops for insurance purposes in January 2002.

The jury could not reach an agreement on two other counts of false application and one count of conspiracy.

Tornabene wrote that he will dismiss the charges without prejudice, which means they can be re-filed if new evidence comes to light.

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