Ex-Farm Bureau president faces 100 years in prison in $47 million fraud case

Starting around January 2000, John Mark Moore of Nipomo realized that his father’s fertilizer business, Moore Agricultural Products, didn’t have a sufficient cash flow to fund its business operations.

To make up the shortfall, he started taking money from his in-laws’ business and personal bank accounts at Farm Credit West in Templeton by making unauthorized withdrawals and forging signatures — adding up to about $13.8 million over 11 years, court documents show.

Moore, who generally went by Mark Moore and served as president of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau from 2007 to 2009, also used the money to support his own businesses, according to the documents.

Federal prosecutors said that Moore also stole money from his in-laws by fraudulently increasing their personal and business lines of credit at Farm Credit West, and then repeatedly forged his father-in-law’s signature on several loan applications to draw down the lines of credit. Those schemes netted about $10.5 million from 2000 to 2011, and Moore fully defaulted on those obligations.

In all, federal prosecutors said that Moore, 51, misappropriated about $24 million from his in-laws, long-established farmers in San Luis Obispo County, plus an additional $23 million from five banks and a friend and business associate of his in-laws.

Moore pleaded guilty on Monday to four federal offenses before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana, including two counts of making false statements to Farm Credit West, one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.

Moore, who is not in custody, faces a potential sentence of 100 years in federal prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Carter will determine Moore’s sentence July 29.

According to a plea agreement filed in February, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to recommend that Moore be sentenced “at the low end” of the sentencing guidelines, which would equal 121 months in federal prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Stern.

From 2000 to 2011, Moore helped manage his in-laws’ various agricultural-related businesses, including one business identified in court documents as MJC Ranches, LLC, as well as their personal finances. They are identified only by their initials in the plea agreement, as MJC and MLC.

However, past Tribune articles identified Mike Cavaletto as Moore’s father-in-law. Cavaletto co-founded C&M Nursery in 1971, and is also a founding member of the Farm Credit West board of directors.

After his father died in 2004, Moore continued to help his mother, Gail Moore, manage a portion of Moore Agricultural Products. He also managed other companies that he had founded, including American Microtech LLC, Core Agri LLC and CactusBDI, LLC, according to the plea agreement.

Prosecutors said Moore used a bank account at Bank of America in Santa Maria and later at Rabobank in Arroyo Grande as a conduit through which he took unauthorized funds from his in-laws’ accounts, and then used them to support businesses in which he and his father had principal ownership interest.

In another scheme, prosecutors said, Moore forged his wife’s signature, submitted false personal financial statements and pledged phony collateral to secure loans. As a result, the lending institutions — including Farm Credit West, Heritage Oaks Bank, Union Bank, Rabobank and Happy State Bank in Dumas, Texas — sustained losses of about $11.4 million in total.

Moore also entered into a series of ranching and farming ventures with a friend and business associate of his in-laws, identified in court documents as GLM, starting in 2002. Moore agreed to start agricultural ventures with GLM providing the start-up capital — but instead used the money for other purposes. The friend lost more than $12 million, which wasn’t repaid.

Through September 2011, Moore never informed his in-laws or his wife that he was taking millions of dollars from their assets, according to court documents.

He self-reported his illegal conduct to federal authorities over the course of 2012, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Moore’s attorney, Los Angeles-based Jeffrey Rutherford, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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