Kentucky farmers seek $69 million in suit charging RICO violations

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A group of Kentucky farmers have filed a $69 million class action lawsuit in U.S. federal courts, alleging a processor who contracted to buy their 2019 hemp crops committed breach of contract and fraud.

The petitioners say Bluegrass Bio-Extracts, Owensboro, Kentucky, and its owners, Gerald Edds and Bruce Peters, also engaged in “negligent misrepresentation,” “unjust enrichment,” and violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. The suit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky.

Other defendants

The lawsuit also names as defendants: Edward Vrab, Todd Owen, Christopher Martin and Leonard Chartraw, of California-based DTEC Ventures, LLC; Nathan Yates and Joseph Gomez of Omny Management; and Bluegrass BioExtracts, LLC, which is held by DTEC, and which originally contracted with the farmers.

Ronald Johnson, an attorney representing the plaintiff group, said rather than honoring the contracts to purchase hemp for processing, Bluegrass “dumped the (processing) company” through a questionable transaction with DTEC, and “walked away from the whole thing.”

Farmers left ‘holding bag’

“Edds and his buddies . . . left these farmers holding the bag,”Johnson told, a local news outlet. “It was a scheme to avoid honoring contracts and a conspiracy that involved one or more actors; we think it meets the requirements of (RICO),” Johnson said.

Filed on behalf of plaintiffs Michael Lovell, Robert Huff, Harold Murphy and other growers, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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