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Potato Farmer Admits To Money Laundering Campaign Contributions

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RIVERSIDE (AP) — A prominent California potato farmer indicted in a campaign contributions money-laundering case pleaded guilty in a plead deal Wednesday and was fined $60,000 and placed on three years’ probation.

Agri-Empire Corp. owner Larry Minor, 70, of San Jacinto was named in a 14-count indictment, including three felonies, that was made public on Tuesday. Less than 24 hours later, Minor was in a Riverside courtroom pleading guilty to two misdemeanors, including one reduced from a felony conspiracy count.

Besides probation and the $60,000 fine to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Minor cannot make political contributions for three years.

Minor was charged with giving $66,400 in illegal contributions in the names of relatives, friends and business associates to two local candidates. The candidates didn’t know the money was unlawful.

California law allows a maximum $3,900 campaign contribution.

The plea deal allows Minor to stay in two elected offices he holds — the Lake Hemet Municipal Water District board and the Valley-Wide Parks and Recreation District, the Riverside Press-Enterprise said.

According to the indictment, Minor’s daughter Aimee Minor Balcunas donated $3,900 to the state Senate campaign of Jeff Stone campaign on June 25, 2009, and her husband, Derek Balcunas, gave another $3,900 to the campaign the next day.

“On or about June 25, 2009, the defendant, having already donated the maximum allowable donation under law to the Jeff Stone for State Senate Campaign, wrote a check to Aimee Balcunas for $7,968.00,” the indictment read. Stone lost in the election.

Minor was also charged with committing perjury by failing to report that he had reimbursed $26,400 to donors in the failed campaign of Brenda Salas for the 65th Assembly District seat in 2006. The maximum limit then was $3,300. Those charges involving Salas were dismissed in the plea bargain.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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