Man charged in seed corn theft must pay $425,000 restitution

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Green corn field in blue sky

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge has ordered a naturalized U.S. citizen from China who pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal seed corn to pay the U.S. companies that made the seed $425,000.

Mo Hailong entered a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in January. In it, he admitted to the plan that would send stolen Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer seed corn to China, where scientists planned to reproduce its genetic traits.

Monday’s judgment in U.S. District Court in Des Moines ordered Mo to pay each company $212,500 in restitution, as well as forfeit two farms.

He also must report to prison in 90 days to serve his three-year sentence, after which he must report to immigration officials.

Hailong was one of seven Chinese nationals accused of stealing corn seeds and attempting to smuggle them back to China. For six years, the Chinese nationals hopscotched across rural Iowa and Illinois, stealing valuable inbred corn seed from Pioneer, Monsanto and LG Seeds, prosecutors said in the indictment. The group rented storage facilities, bought their own testing field and concocted elaborate cover stories.