Fraud trial delayed for ex-owner of grain processing company

Dec 23, 2022, 11:45 AM | Updated: 1:05 pm

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — A federal trial has been delayed until May for the former leader of a Mississippi grain storage and processing company who is charged with defrauding farmers, banks and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture of tens of millions of dollars.

John R. Coleman of Greenwood, Mississippi, is the former CEO of Express Grain Terminals, LLC. His trial originally was set to begin Jan. 30 in Oxford. U.S. District Judge Michael Mills signed an order Wednesday setting a new trial date of May 8, the Greenwood Commonwealth reported.

Coleman’s attorney, John Colette, requested a delay this week, saying he needed a significant amount of time to obtain, review and go over evidence with Coleman. He said Coleman did not object.

U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced in early December that a federal grand jury had indicted Coleman on Nov. 15.

Federal court documents say that from June 2018 to October 2022, Coleman altered Express Grain’s audited financial statements to receive a state warehouse license and lied about the amount of debt he owed on corn, wheat, soybeans or other crops held at the facility.

The federal indictment said farmers delivered grain to Express Grain throughout the 2021 harvest season but did not receive payment.

“Coleman’s fraud caused widespread financial hardship and suffering throughout the Mississippi Delta and elsewhere,” the federal indictment said.

In September 2021, Express Grain had $70 million in outstanding loans from UMB Bank in Kansas City, Missouri.

If convicted on the federal charges, Coleman would face up to 180 years in prison.

A Leflore County grand jury also indicted Coleman on five counts of making false representations to defraud government and one count of false pretenses.

Law enforcement agents raided the Express Grain offices and Coleman’s home in February, days before the company’s properties were sold at auction. A legal battle over Express Grain’s proceeds was settled earlier this year. Farmers who chose to participate in the settlement were able to claim a share of $9 million.

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Fraud trial delayed for ex-owner of grain processing company