A 71-year-old man is facing 18 months in federal prison for taking bribes in exchange for giving false food safety training certificates to foodservice workers from 2008 to 2015.
Ernest Griffin negotiated a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in the case, admitting last year to one count of federal program bribery. U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah imposed the 18-month sentence in federal court in Chicago. Judge Shah also fined Griffin $5,000.
“(The) defendant’s certificates-for-bribes scheme was a serious abuse of the public trust,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen E. Merin argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum.
“Defendant’s scheme not only potentially caused physical harm to members of the public, but also chipped away at the confidence that the public has in the ability of our government to enforce laws and regulations designed to protect the public health.”
The scheme allowed foodservice workers in to skip a 15-hour course and certification exam required by Illinois law.
In exchange for a bribe of about $175, Griffin submitted false certifications and false test results to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to make it appear that a bribe payer had completed the course, passed the exam, and was entitled to the certification, according to a news release from the Justice Department.
“The state of Illinois and the city of Chicago require that foodservice establishments have a person on site at all times who holds an Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate,” according to the release.
“In order to obtain the certificate, the IDPH required that individuals take an IDPH-approved 15-hour course and pass an IDPH exam. The course included instruction on food-borne illnesses, personal hygiene, food safety, pest control, proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and the prevention of food contamination.”
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