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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Petaluma Slaughterhouse Owner Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Distribute Adulterated Meat

SAN FRANCISCO – Jesse “Babe” Amaral, Jr., owner of the now-defunct Petaluma slaughterhouse Rancho Feeding Corporation, pleaded guilty on February 18, 2015 to conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Lori Chan, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General, Investigations, Western Region.

In pleading guilty, Amaral, 77, admitted that from 2012 through January 10, 2014, he knowingly and with intent to defraud directed Rancho employees to process for human consumption cattle that had been condemned by the USDA veterinarian; to circumvent inspection procedures for certain cattle exhibiting symptoms of cancer eye; and to process these cancer eye cattle for human consumption without full inspection. Amaral further admitted knowingly causing Rancho to submit fraudulent cattle invoices to farmers between at least 2012 and January 2014.

Amaral was indicted on August 14, 2014, along with Rancho employees Eugene Corda, 66, and Felix Cabrera, 56. All were charged with fraudulent distribution of adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat, in violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), 21 U.S.C. §§ 610(c) & 676(a); conspiracy to commit the same, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; and mail fraud conspiracy in furtherance of the same scheme, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Amaral was also charged with mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and mail fraud conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, in a separate scheme to defraud farmers by means of false invoicing.

Arising out of the same scheme, Robert Singleton, 78, owner of Petaluma-based Rancho Veal Corporation, was charged by Information on August 18, 2014, with one count of fraudulently distributing adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat in violation of the FMIA.

Singleton pleaded guilty to the Information on August 22, 2014. In so doing, he admitted knowingly participating in a scheme by which Rancho employees were instructed to carve “USDA Condemned” stamps out of cattle carcasses, to conceal from USDA inspection cows showing signs of cancer eye by switching the diseased heads with healthy heads, and to process the adulterated and uninspected carcasses for human consumption. He also admitted participating in the scheme to fraudulently invoice farmers.

Cabrera, Rancho’s “kill floor” supervisor, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to fraudulently distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat on November 26, 2014. Corda, Rancho’s yardman, pleaded guilty on October 10, 2014, to fraudulently distributing adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat as well as aiding and abetting such distribution in violation of the FMIA.

Amaral’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 1, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer. A status hearing is scheduled for Singleton, Cabrera, and Corda on August 12, 2015, also before Judge Charles R. Breyer.

The maximum statutory penalties for conspiracy to distribute adulterated meat are 5 years’ imprisonment, 3 years’ supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. The maximum statutory penalties for fraudulent distribution of adulterated meat are 3 years’ imprisonment, 1 year supervised release, a $10,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. The maximum statutory penalties for mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy are 20 years’ imprisonment, 3 years’ supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. Notwithstanding these statutory maximums, any sentence imposed by the court following conviction would take into consideration the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Hartley M.K. West is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting this case with the assistance of Rosario Calderon. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by agents of the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, Investigations and USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit, Compliance and Investigations.

Updated February 25, 2015