Paul and Kelly Rosberg, who once owned Nebraska’s Finest Meats in Randolph, NE, put up a vigorous defense for many months against charges that they had sold to Omaha Public Schools 2,600 pounds of ground beef falsely presented as inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In court documents, they referred to themselves not as the “defendants,” but as the “falsely accused.” They dismissed attorneys and represented themselves. They sued USDA meat inspectors in Nebraska courts and filed liens against their properties.
Their son dodged federal marshals — he said his friends and neighbors in rural northeast Nebraska easily spotted their new cars. But U.S. attorneys finally got him lined up as a material witness in exchange for immunity.
The United States of America vs. Paul and Kelly Rosberg shows how hard federal prosecutors have to work to bring to justice those who violate USDA’s inspection regulations.
For USDA’s Inspector General (IG) and the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for Northern California, which are now investigating a Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse for possible similar charges, the Nebraska case could be instructive about the difficult road ahead.
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service provided inspection services from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. In September 2011, Omaha Public Schools awarded Rosberg’s company a contract for 5,200 pounds of USDA-inspected ground beef to be served at various school cafeterias in the state’s largest school district.
To fulfill the order by Oct. 19, Nebraska’s Finest Meats operated on the first two weekends of October 2011, mixing inspected beef with beef processed when inspectors were not present at the facility. They placed USDA’s mark of inspections on all packages and delivered them by the deadline.
In plea agreements with the defendants, U.S. attorneys in Nebraska agreed to dismiss most of the felony charges. Kelly Rosberg agreed to plead to a single federal misdemeanor count for representing the ground beef as USDA-inspected when she knew it had not been passed or inspected by the agency.
She escaped any jail time when the sentence was handed down earlier this week and got off with two years of federally supervised probation.
Prosecutors allowed Paul Rosberg to plead to only a single charge of conspiracy. Other federal felony charges went away.
Paul Rosberg also went away. He was sentenced last December to 18 months at a federal prison camp in Yankton, SD.
In his plea agreement, Rosberg agreed to dismiss his “pending lawsuits against government witnesses” and drop liens against their properties. He also agreed not to file any more legal actions against government witnesses and to pay $8,435.58 to cover legal expenses incurred by those he had sued.
He also agreed TO withdraw his application for a $300,000 “value-added” grant from USDA’s Rural Development Agency.
Rosberg admitted that he knew the ground beef intended for Omaha Public Schools was misbranded and it had the intent to defraud.
The current California investigation into whether beef from diseased cattle was being processed without federal meat inspectors at the Rancho Feeding Corp. slaughterhouse in Petaluma has been under way since January. The facility has been shut down since USDA withdrew meat inspectors from the facility and called in the IG to investigate.
USDA’s provides meat, poultry and egg inspectors at more than 6,000 plants at a cost of about $1 billion a year.© Food Safety News