The man who admittedly duped organic growers in California into buying more than $6 million of non-organic fertilizer can go home to Canada pending his June 13 sentencing in federal court in San Francisco.
Peter Townsley pleaded guilty Feb. 22 to two federal counts of mail fraud in relation to his former business, California Liquid Fertilizer. He sold Biolizer XN from April 2000 through December 2006 knowing it contained substances prohibited in organic operations.
He could face 40 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines if the maximum sentence is imposed. In granting Townsley’s request to go home to Canada, the judge specified Townsley must notify officials of his travel plans and surrender his passport no later than the June 13 sentencing.
Federal sentencing guidelines require judges to impose less than maximum sentences, depending on the damages related to a crime. Federal Judge Charles Breyer set an April 25 date for oral arguments about “the appropriate methodology to determine ‘loss’ and the applicable ‘loss’ adjustment in this case under the federal sentencing guidelines.”
An assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco said in late February that she anticipated “vigorous litigation” regarding the sentencing guidelines for Townsley’s case.
Organic Trade Association and the California Certified Organic Farmers are expected to provide information about how Townsley damaged the reputation and integrity of the entire organic sector, in addition to the individual growers who bought and used Biolizer XN.
The organizations contend the Townsley case generated negative publicity and tainted consumers’ confidence in the integrity of the organic industry, resulting in lost sales across the board.