Maryland Livestock Brokers Sentenced To 30 Months’ Imprisonment For Exporting Dairy Cattle Through Fraudulent Health Certificates
HARRISBURG - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on November 17, 2022, Daniel Gutman, age 40, and Benjamin Gutman, age 40. both residents of Maryland, were each sentenced by United States District Court Judge Jennifer P. Wilson to 30 months in prison for a conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States. Collectively, they were ordered to pay $1,938,646.42 in fines and forfeiture.
According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, Daniel Gutman and Benjamin Gutman are brothers who own and operate a livestock exporting business known as Gutman Brothers Dairy Cattle (“Gutman Brothers”), with operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Federal law requires cattle transported in interstate and foreign commerce to be tested for certain diseases prior to shipment, including Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Leucosis, and Bovine Viral Diarrhea. The United States Department of Agriculture certifies that U.S. agricultural and food products shipped to international markets meet both U.S. and foreign requirements. When it comes to dairy cattle, this process relies upon the services of USDA-accredited veterinarians and the animal exporters to whom these veterinarians provide services.
The USDA’s investigation revealed that Daniel Gutman and Benjamin Gutman, with the assistance of Dr. Donald Yorlets, a USDA-accredited veterinarian, conspired to carry out a scheme to defraud foreign customers and the USDA. They did so by submitting non-authentic, bovine blood samples for the detection of disease to a USDA-accredited testing laboratory located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and by issuing false and fraudulent health certificates for the untested animals. In addition, Yorlets also falsely claimed in health certificates that cattle had tested negative for Bovine Tuberculosis when, in fact, the required caudal skin fold test had not been administered. Furthermore, Yorlets submitted these false and fraudulent health certificates to a USDA Veterinary Services Endorsement Office. The USDA’s endorsement of these health certificates permitted dairy cattle to be shipped in interstate and foreign commerce.
Yorlets signed international health certificates for Gutman Brothers dating back to 2014. With his assistance, Daniel and Benjamin Gutman shipped close to 20,000 head of dairy cattle to buyers in foreign countries, making millions of dollars in profits.
Previously, Daniel and Benjamin Gutman pleaded guilty conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the scheme. Likewise, on August 31, 2020, Yorlets pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Yorlets currently awaits sentencing.
“Trade and commerce with our foreign and domestic partners require that all parties conduct themselves in a fair, legal, and transparent manner. Without trust in the system, there can be no trade. The Gutman brothers have broken this trust and damaged relations with our partners," said William S. Walker, Special Agent in Charge of HSI’s Philadelphia office. “Thankfully, special agents with HSI and the USDA who focus on trade-based investigations were able to uncover this criminal conspiracy that impacted both the United States and our partner nations.”
“We appreciate the ongoing commitment and concerted efforts of our law enforcement partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Investigative and Enforcement Services to investigate a long running scheme affecting the exportation of healthy animals from the U.S. and the illegitimate issuance of required health certificates based on fraudulent test results” said Special Agent-in-Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General (OIG). “In order to ensure integrity in international commerce, USDA, OIG will continue to dedicate resources and prioritize work that disincentivizes those who seek to take short cuts in order to increase their own profit margins while at the same time demeaning the value and safety of American agricultural products.”
The case was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ravi Romel Sharma and Philip J. Caraballo prosecuted the case. Now retired Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel previously worked on the case. Assistance was provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI Legal Attaché for Qatar and Kuwait.
# # #