$1 Million Recovered For Upstate Dairy Farmers

Attorney General Spitzer and Assembly Member Paul Tonko today announced a $1 million settlement for a group of upstate dairy farmers who unknowingly invested in a fraudulent financial plan.

Beginning in the early 80s, farmers from the Mohawk Valley, Capital District and Central New York invested in a financial plan offered by four agents from Mutual of New York (MONY). The plan was supposed to provide retirement and death benefits. By 1997, however, the plan had run out of money and benefits were no longer being paid to members.

In announcing the settlement with MONY, Spitzer said: "I'm delighted that we've been able to recover the money and return some piece of mind to the farmers. These are all honest, hard working individuals who had invested a significant portion of their earnings in what they believed to be a reputable plan. This settlement will help restore financial stability for many farm families."

Assembly Member Tonko said: "I am pleased to work with Attorney General Spitzer on behalf of so many dairy farmers to help return their hard-earned dollars. I applaud the Attorney General for his determination to pursue this case so aggressively, and give much needed attention to New York's largest industry."

More than half of the dairy farmers who entered the plan are now of retirement age. Under the settlement, the farmers will receive an average refund of between $25,000 and $35,000, depending on their age and the amount they contributed. These funds can be obtained either as a lump sum or as an annuity contract, which is approximately equal to what a reputable plan would have paid the farmers over the same period of time.

In response to the settlement, the president of the group of farmers, Bob Dygert of Nolliston in Montgomery County, said: "A year ago, we were frustrated that no one was helping us, now we're happy to see that the Attorney General really came through for us."

The farmers were independent contractors who sold their milk to Moser Farms, a processor based in Rockville, Connecticut. The financial plan was put together by MONY agents and offered to the dairy farmers by Moser Farms owner Benjamin Moser.

In addition to the $1 million payment, MONY will also pay $100,000 to the Attorney General's Office for costs and disbursements. Spitzer commended MONY for working with his office in resolving the case, which was handled by Jean Cho of the Attorney General's Investor Protection and Securities Bureau.

A similar settlement for farmers in the state of Connecticut was being announced today in Hartford. Spitzer's office cooperated with the Connecticut Attorney General and Connecticut State Insurance Department on the case