A Kansas custom combiner has admitted to taking more than $9,000 in corn from an Emmons County farmer.
Kevin Clark, 48, pleaded guilty on Monday to Class C felony theft of property.
South Central District Judge Cynthia Feland approved a plea agreement between Clark and the Emmons County State’s Attorney’s Office that calls for Clark to receive a five-year deferred imposition of sentence, which means the offense will be removed from his record if he successfully completes five years of supervised probation.
The plea agreement also called for Clark to pay a $1,000 fine, to make sure documents were provided to South Central Grain in Sterling to ensure that the farmer received payment for his corn, and to pay $550 in court fees. Feland also ordered Clark to repay $400 to the indigent defense commission.
Feland also approved a portion of the plea agreement that would allow Clark to have his probation transferred to Kansas.
Clark is the owner of American Quality Harvesting and Trucking, also known as Clark Farms, of Hesston, Kan. The company was in North Dakota in late summer harvesting for producers.
A Hazelton-area farmer called the sheriff's department on Oct. 11 to report his suspicions that Clark's company had stolen a semi trailer load of corn, according to an affidavit from Emmons County Sheriff's Deputy Jack Kimble.
The affidavit said Clark's group of custom combiners and truckers arrived at the farm on Oct. 6, and on Oct. 7, Clark asked the farmer to allow him to use an auger to move partial loads of soybeans into two trailers. Clark said the beans belonged to Clark Farms, but the farmer was suspicious since he knew American Quality Harvesting had been combining beans for a Kidder County farmer the day before.
The farmer called the elevator in Sterling to see if Clark had sold any soybeans there. He learned he had sold two trailer loads under the name Clark Farms, the affidavit said.
On Oct. 10, the farmer went to the field and noticed a Clark Farms semi and trailer were gone, and a service truck had been left in the field. The next day, the farmer again checked with the elevator in Sterling and learned Clark Farms had sold 1,388.21 bushels of corn, worth $9,578.65, the affidavit said. The description of the person who sold the corn matched Clark, the affidavit said.
All of the farmer's corn was supposed to be put in his storage bins.
Kimble spoke to Clark on Oct. 11, and Clark told him the corn sold in Sterling was brought from Pierre, S.D., by one of his drivers. He said the elevators in the Pierre area were full and not buying any corn or soybeans, and he said the price offered in Sterling was better than those in South Dakota. He later changed the story that he was moving grain for a farmer as part of an insurance scam, but he refused to disclose who the farmer was or the location of the farm.
Emmons County officials checked whether elevators in Pierre were full and learned that they were not full and were paying more than elevators in North Dakota, because drought had limited crop growth there.
Other employees said the trailer Clark drove to Sterling was pulling the "overflow" trailer. They explained any corn left in a combine after the trailers were full was put in the overflow trailer so the combines could keep moving. They said Clark was the only one to drive that semi, the affidavit said. It said one employee said Clark did drive to Pierre on Oct. 10, but went in a pickup.
The affidavit said the moisture and weight of the corn sold in Sterling under the name Clark Farms matched that of corn stored in the Hazelton farmer's bins.
Emmons County Sheriff Gary Sanders said at the time Clark was charged that authorities also are investigating whether Clark could have stolen crops belonging to Kidder County farmers. Clark has not been charged with any additional crimes in North Dakota since that time.