Operator of Unlicensed Slaughter House Pleads Guilty to Food Safety and Humane Slaughter Violations
Wifredo A, Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Larry S. Hortert, Regional Director, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety & Inspection Service, announced that Gelio Hernandez, 50, of Hialeah, Florida, pled guilty today in federal court to charges stemming from his involvement in the inhumane slaughter of swine and the sale of uninspected and adulterated swine meat for human consumption, in violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), Title 7, United States Code, Section 1902(a) and the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), as amended, Title 21, United States Code, Sections 601(m)(4), 610(b), (c)(1)-(2), and 676(a).
Hernandez entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard, who scheduled sentencing for January 7, 2013, at 2:30 p.m. Hernandez faces a possible term of imprisonment of up to three years on each of the two counts, a fine on each count, and a term of supervised release of up to one year per count.
According to a Factual Statement filed with the court and other court records, Hernandez owned and operated an unincorporated business in Miami known as Finca El Novillo, located on N.W. 122ND Avenue. Hernandez, along with a co-owner, was responsible for the day to day management and oversight of the business activities, and engaged in the slaughtering, processing, handling, storing, and selling of meat and meat food products for human consumption, including swine and goats. Hernandez admitted in Court to knowingly distributing and attempting to distribute swine capable of use as human food in November 2011, without the swine first being inspected as required by the FMIA.
Defendant Hernandez also admitted that he directed the sale of a live pig to investigators in a USDA undercover investigation into the inhumane slaughter and uninspected distribution of meat and meat products for human consumption from the Finca El Novillo. The pig was taken from a pen holding multiple animals and then administered an electric shock with a home-made device that failed to render the animal insensate, as required by law, before the slaughtering of animals for sale in commerce. Thereafter, the pig was slaughtered by use of a large knife that was thrust into its neck, with no other steps having been taken render the animal insensible to pain. Witnesses to the event observed the animal thrashing and vocalizing during the process as it died by exsanguination. Hernandez admitted his involvement in the slaughter and handling of this swine.
The HMSA established as the public policy of the United States that the slaughtering or handling for slaughter of livestock, including swine, may only be carried out by humane methods. The law requires that such animals be rendered insensible to pain by one of the methods described in the HMSA, prior to the animal being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut. Title 7, United States Code, Sections 1901-1902(a).
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Compliance Officers of the USDA FSIS, Office of Program Evaluation, Enforcement and Review, Compliance & Investigations Division and further expressed appreciation for the assistance rendered by the Hialeah - United States Marshall’s Service Florida Fugitive Task Force in effecting the arrest in this case and the Miami-Dade Police Department South Regional Agricultural Patrol Section. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.