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Press Release

New Oxford Veterinarian Pleads Guilty To Defrauding The U.S. Department Of Agriculture

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Dr. Donald Yorlets, age 66, of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer P. Wilson to defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 2016 and 2019 by submitting false blood samples for bovine disease testing and by issuing false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for the animals.  Yorlets has been a Pennsylvania licensed veterinarian since 1981. 

According to U.S. Attorney David J. Freed, federal law requires that each cow transported in interstate or international commerce be first tested for various bovine diseases, such as Bovine Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Bovine Leucosis and Bovine Viral Diarrhea. Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis are communicable diseases that can be transmitted to humans under certain circumstances.  Bovine Tuberculosis is screened for by what is known as a Caudal Fold skin test. The test must be administered by a USDA accredited veterinarian and involves the injection of a tuberculin substance under the skin and checking it for a reaction 72 hours later.  Testing for Brucellosis, Bovine Leucosis and Bovine Viral Diarrhea requires the drawing of blood and the submission of samples to an accredited laboratory for analysis.

Animals transported in international commerce can only be exported with an International Certificate of Veterinarian Inspection (ICVI).  To lawfully issue an ICVI, a USDA accredited veterinarian must verify that each animal has been physically examined, tested for disease, vaccinated and medically treated as required by the USDA prior to shipment. 

During the guilty plea hearing Yorlets admitted that he conspired with two unnamed exporters to avoid the disease testing requirements by falsely representing he tested every cow for Bovine Tuberculosis when, in fact, he did not.   Yorlets also admitted he submitted hundreds of non-authentic, bovine blood samples to a PA Department of Agriculture testing laboratory in Harrisburg for testing and by issuing false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for the untested animals.  The false blood test results and Certificates enabled the sellers to quickly export hundreds of untested cows to Mexico, Canada, Qatar, and Puerto Rico.

The investigation began in 2017 when the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory (PVL) in Harrisburg became suspicious that dozens of blood specimens submitted by Dr. Yorlets were not authentic.  To confirm their suspicions the PVL sent 804 blood samples submitted by Dr. Yorlets to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Iowa for Antibody Profile testing.

Each animal has a unique Antibody Profile in its blood.  If all of the Yorlets’ blood specimens were genuine, Antibody Profile testing should have shown that all 804 blood samples had a unique Antibody Profile.  However, the NVSL’s testing only found 70 unique Antibody Profiles in the 804 samples.  The results confirmed that Dr. Yorlets’ repeatedly submitted the same blood samples for different animals and issued false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for hundreds of cows that were never tested.  This allowed the sellers to export the animals quickly and reduce expenses incurred in keeping the animals on domestic feeder lots.

Dr. Yorlets’ stipulated the loss sustained by the USDA for the out of pocket laboratory expenses was $38,005, and has agreed to make full restitution in that amount. No date has been scheduled for Yorlets’ sentencing pending preparation of a pre-sentence report.

The case was investigated by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Homeland Security.  Assistant United States Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel is prosecuting the case. 

The maximum penalty for this offense is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and could include a term of supervisory release following imprisonment, and a fine.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.


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Updated August 31, 2020