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Slaughterhouse ex-owners, workers indicted for swapping cow heads to hide cancer

Two former owners and two employees of a Petaluma, California slaughterhouse were charged with selling the meat from diseased cattle that triggered an international recall of more than 8 million pounds of meat.

Rancho Feeding Corp. co-owner Robert Singleton, 77, is cooperating with prosecutors. He's expected to plead guilty to a single count of distribution of adulterated meat, the Press Democrat said.

An 11-count indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco named his former partner Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr, and two Rancho employees, charging each with conspiracy to distribute adulterated meat and to commit mail fraud, among others.

The former employees are Rancho foreman Felix Cabrera, 55, of Santa Rosa, and Eugene Corda, 65, of Petaluma, the yardman responsible for receiving cattle and moving them for inspection and slaughter.

The slaughterhouse closed in February after recalling 8.7 million pounds of its beef and veal processed in 2013f and sold in the United States and Canada.

The indictment alleged that Cabrera "fooled inspectors by placing heads from apparently healthy cows next to carcasses of cows with eye cancer, making the diseased carcasses appear healthy," the report said.

Amaral and Corda pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday and were released on $50,000 bond.

Singleton is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

Cabrera hasn't entered a plea or appeared in court yet.

There's no suggestion in the indictment that the U.S. Department of Agriculture meat inspectors at the plant were aware of the scheme.

Amaral, Cabrera, and Corda face up to 20 years in prison on the mail fraud and conspiracy counts.

During 2013, Rancho processed and distributed carcasses and meat from 101 condemned cattle and 79 cows afflicted with eye cancer, according to the indictment.

Rancho paid Cabrera about $50 for each carcass that was slipped past inspectors, the DOJ said.

The slaughterhouse re-opened in April with new owners and managers.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.