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Antrim Farm Manager Accused Of Fraud Asks Judge To Toss Case

photo of rolling farm
Aaron Eidman
/

A farm consultant from Antrim accused of defrauding a wealthy philanthropist out of $3 million is asking a judge to dismiss the case.

Bob Bernstein, a self-described pioneer of community economic development with a long history in the Monadnock region, was sued in federal court in January after he allegedly misled Joshua Rechnitz, a media-shy philanthropist, about the viability of several farm investments in upstate New York. 

[Read NHPR's previous coverage of this story here.]

In court paperwork filed earlier this week, Bernstein’s lawyers contend that Rechnitz failed to do proper due diligence before investing in the farm projects, and that, as a sophisticated investor, he should have known the risks.

“Now, three years after his investments, Rechnitz suddenly wants his initial capital contributions returned...Rechnitz, however, is not entitled to any such relief,” wrote Bernstein’s lawyers.

Rechnitz’s civil suit alleges Bernstein mismanaged two farm projects, misled Rechnitz about their financial viability, and freely spent money on equipment at the farms in order to drive up his own fees. 

In his legal response, Bernstein contends that he and Rechnitz had a signed contract spelling out Bernstein’s payments, and that the allegations “bear no resemblance to the truth.”

To date, Bernstein has launched six agricultural centers across three states. Under his model, Bernstein coordinates the purchase of farmland at risk of development, and then leases the properties out to multiple tenant farmers, while promising two-percent profits for his investors. He operates both a for-profit entity called NEFA1, and a similarly missioned non-profit called Northeast Farm Access. 

In 2018, Rechnitz funded the purchase of a 271-acre former dairy farm in upstate New York. He claims that, despite pouring money into the project at Bernstein’s direction, the farm remains far from profitable. 

“Bob Bernstein is no stranger to misrepresenting the facts,” said Luke Nikas, Rechnitz’s attorney, in a statement. “His public response to litigation that points precisely to serious mismanagement of substantial investor funds is a continuation of the same fraud that landed him in a court of law. Bernstein’s response fundamentally ignores the serious allegations that go to the core of the business he operates in partnership with investors and farmers. We believe Bob Bernstein should be held accountable.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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