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Fake Hemp Farm Scheme Dupes Investors Out of $18.4 Million

Mark Roy Anderson made up a business that he said would sell medical-grade CBD isolate.

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LOS ANGELES â€“ A Beverly Hills man pleaded guilty today to federal criminal charges for causing investors more than $18 million in losses – while he was completing a sentence in a prior criminal case – by duping them with false claims about his companies that purportedly invested in hemp farms and cannabis-infused retail products as well as a sham bottling business.

Mark Roy Anderson, 69, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud.

According to his plea agreement, Anderson engaged in two separate schemes that swindled victims, which he committed shortly after his release from federal prison but while on home confinement and, later, while on supervised release for a previous fraud conviction.

Harvest Farm Group

In the first scheme, from June 2020 to April 2021, Anderson tricked investors into providing funding for his company, called Harvest Farm Group, to harvest and process hemp grown on his farm into medical-grade cannabidiol (CBD) isolate – a chemical found in marijuana – to be sold for a substantial profit.

Anderson convinced investors to invest in Harvest Farm Group by falsely representing that, through the company, he owned and operated a hemp farm in Kern County. He also lied that had already completed successful and profitable harvests of hemp from the farm. He also falsely said he was using his own machinery and equipment to convert the hemp into CBD isolate and Delta 8, a psychoactive substance that, like CBD isolate, could be used in consumer products ranging from olive oil to body cream.

Anderson attempted to maintain a veneer of trustworthiness by taking steps to assure investors Harvest Farm Group was legitimate and he was not the “Mark Roy Anderson” with multiple prior fraud convictions. Anderson concealed that he had been convicted of multiple federal and state felony crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, grand theft, forgery, preparing false evidence, and money laundering. He also concealed that he was still serving a criminal sentence and was on supervised release at the time he was soliciting investments.

To stall victim investors from making collection efforts and reporting him to law enforcement, Anderson falsely told them that sales of products derived from hemp grown at the farm had been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, misleadingly promised that he would pay the victims money from purported sales he had made to Canadian companies, and falsely promised that he would otherwise return their money.

Bio Pharma and Verta Bottling

In the second scheme, which ran from April 2021 to May 2023, Anderson deceived investors by soliciting money for Bio Pharma and Verta Bottling, two of his sham companies, by claiming that these businesses successfully manufactured, bottled, and packaged commercial products.

Specifically, Bio Pharma purportedly manufactured and sold products infused with CBD, including products such as CBD-infused avocado oil, olive oil, pain cream, gummies, tequila, and chili oil. Anderson also claimed that Verta Bottling manufactured and sold beverages and a variety of food products.

Anderson falsely stated that his bottling companies owned and possessed millions of dollars’ worth of assets, including – in Bio Pharma’s case – hemp biomass, CBD isolate, CBD oil, and – in Verta Bottling’s case – manufacturing equipment and an assignable lease for a warehouse to manufacture and sell its products.

Anderson’s other lies to investors included false claims that his bottling companies had at least $10 million in purchase-order contracts from suppliers. He drafted fake legal and business documents, which included fabricated purchase order contracts purporting to show agreements with third party companies to purchase tens of millions of dollars’ worth of products manufactured by the Anderson bottling companies. Anderson also provided victims samples of products purportedly manufactured by his purported bottling companies.

Instead of investing victim funds as he promised, Anderson instead used their money on personal expenses. He has agreed to forfeit his ill-gotten gains from these schemes, including 15 cars – one of them a Ferrari – and real estate in Ojai.

In total, Anderson solicited more than $18.8 million from 45 victims for both schemes, causing victims to lose approximately $18,376,150.

United States District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha scheduled a sentencing hearing for August 23, at which time Anderson will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count.

The FBI is investigating this matter.

Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting the case.

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