Riverside County Potato Baron Indicted for Laundering Tens-of-Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Funds

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

RIVERSIDE – One of the nation’s largest potato growers has been indicted by a Riverside County Criminal Grand Jury on charges of laundering campaign contributions in violation of state law.

James Larry Minor, 70, of San Jacinto in Riverside County, is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow morning at 10 in Department 52 of Riverside County Superior Court. The indictment charges him with conspiracy to violate the state Political Reform Act by donating money in the name of another, committing perjury, and filing a false document.

Minor is owner of Agri-Empire Corp. in San Jacinto, which ships millions of potatoes destined for fast food restaurants and family kitchens to supermarkets and brokers across the nation. Its predecessor, San Jacinto Packing Company, was founded by the Minor family in 1943 with an $800 loan.

Minor is accused of illegally donating nearly $40,000 in the names of family members (including his sons, daughter, son-in-law and daughters-in-law), friends, and business associates to the Jeff Stone for State Senate Campaign in 2009. The practice is known as money laundering because it is designed to hide the true source of campaign donations and allows an individual to exceed the legal limits for donating to a state political campaign. The limit was $3,900 in 2009.

Minor is also accused of perjury and filing a false statement in connection with his donations to the Committee to Elect Brenda Salas for State Assembly Campaign in 2006. The limit that year was $3,300, and Minor contributed a total of $26,400 in the names of others. Minor illegally filed a major donor statement with the Fair Political Practices Commission under penalty of perjury that failed to list any of those donations to Salas.

Minor faces a maximum sentence of four years and eight months in state prison, and a fine of $60,000 imposed by the FPPC.

The indictment, issued by the grand jury in December, will be unsealed at tomorrow’s court hearing.

The money laundering investigation was conducted by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence. It was presented to the grand jury by Deputy Attorney General Alana Cohen Butler of the criminal division.

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