Petaluma Slaughterhouse Owner Sentenced To 12 Months And One Day Of Imprisonment For Conspiring To Distribute Adulterated Meat
SAN FRANCISCO – Jesse “Babe” Amaral, Jr., owner of the now-defunct Petaluma slaughterhouse Rancho Feeding Corporation, was sentenced today to 12 months and one day of imprisonment for leading a conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat, announced Acting United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Special Agent in Charge of the Western Region of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General, Investigations, Lori Chan.
Amaral, 78, of Petaluma, was indicted on August 14, 2014, in connection with two separate schemes: the first scheme involved a conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat while the second scheme involved defrauding farmers with false invoicing.
With respect to the first scheme, Amaral was indicted along with Rancho employees Eugene Corda, 66, of Petaluma, and Felix Cabrera, 56, of Santa Rosa, with 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 conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. For his part in the scheme, a fourth defendant, Robert Singleton, 79, owner of Petaluma-based Rancho Veal Corporation, was charged in a separate information on August 18, 2014, with one count of distributing adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat in violation of the FMIA.
Amaral pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge on February 18, 2015. In connection with his guilty plea, Amaral admitted that from 2012 through January 10, 2014, he directed Rancho employees to process cattle for human consumption that had been condemned by the USDA veterinarian. Amaral also admitted he sought 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. Cabrera, Rancho’s “kill floor” supervisor, also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge. Corda, Rancho’s yardman, pleaded guilty to one of the underlying distribution counts. Singleton pleaded guilty to the information, admitting that he participated 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.
With respect to the second scheme, Amaral was indicted for mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. As part of his plea agreement, Amaral admitted that he caused Rancho to submit fraudulent cattle invoices to farmers between at least 2012 and January 2014. Singleton, as part of his plea agreement, also admitted participating in this scheme.
The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Charles R. Breyer, U.S. District Judge. In addition to the prison term, Judge Breyer sentenced Amaral to two years’ supervised release, one of which will be served in a residential re-entry facility. Judge Breyer concluded that Amaral had reached out of court settlements with nearly all of his fraud victims, and ordered restitution to the remaining two victims. Amaral was ordered to surrender by March 25, 2016, to begin serving his sentence.
The sentencing hearings for Singleton and Corda are set for March 2, 2016, and the sentencing hearing for Cabrera is set for March 23, 2016. The sentencings will be held before Judge Breyer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hartley M.K. West is prosecuting this case with the assistance of Rosario Calderon and Bridget Kilkenny. 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.