Sentences were imposed recently for a felonious scheme carried out from 2008 to 2009 by a Pennsylvania trucking company that supplied condemned milk to a very clued-in New Jersey cheese maker.
Here’s how it went down.
Lancaster, PA-based Landis Trucking Inc. hauled milk from approximately 700 individual dairy farms in Southeastern Pennsylvania to large dairy processors.
Using screening tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at least 20 of those loads were known to have tested positive for beta lactum antibiotics and were ordered destroyed by the processors.
Landis reported dumping it into a manure pit at a Willow Street, PA farm, thereby destroying the condemned milk. However, according to information from the U.S. District Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania, the condemned loads were in fact returned to the trucking yard and pumped into another Landis truck.
Landis then had that truck deliver the condemned milk to the Lebanon Cheese Company in Lebanon, NJ, where owner Joseph Lotito paid about $4 per hundred pounds for the milk at a time when the raw milk was fetching $12 to $23 per hundred pounds.
After accepting delivery of the condemned milk, Lebanon Cheese used it to manufacture ricotta cheese, which was sold to its customers. The contaminated milk was used to make at least eight 10-pound containers to ricotta that was delivered to a Wyomissing, PA food market on or about Aug. 20, 2008.
No illnesses resulted.
However the knowing distribution of adulterated food into commerce is a classic violation of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The Landis drivers were keeping two sets of logbooks and only accepting cash for deliveries of the condemned milk.
After earlier pleading guilty on the various counts,penalties handed down now include:
-Dean A. Landis, 45, Willow Street, PA, was sentenced to one year of home detention and five years of probation and fined $15,000 personally plus a $100 special assessment.
-D.A. Landis Trucking, Lancaster, PA, was sentenced to four years probation for falsifying driver daily log books and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine plus a $4,400 special assessment. The company was also ordered to enact a compliance and ethics plan.
-Lebanon Cheese Co., Lebanon, NJ was placed on federal probation for four years, fined $200,000 plus a $125 special assessment, and ordered to develop and implement a compliance and ethics Plan. It was ordered to report any safety, health or environmental violations in the next four years to FDA, the U.S. Attorney, and the Probation Office.
-Joseph G. Lotito, Annandale, NJ was placed on probation for four years, and fined $10,000 plus a special assessment of $25.
Lebanon Cheese and Lotito earlier plead guilty to causing the interstate shipment of adulterated ricotta cheese.
Landis pleads guilty to making false statements to the U.S. Department of Transportation in connection with the dual logbooks it was keeping.
The U.S. District Attorney credited USDOT’s Inspector General and FDA for investigations that led to the successful convictions. Dual logbooks were not required to sell condemned milk, but rather to keep drivers working longer hours.
“The defendants dispatched the company’s commercial truck drivers on trips which defendants knew required excessive hours of driving time and excessive hours of “on-duty” time, without allowing for the required hours of rest or “off-duty” time,” federal prosecutors said.
Lebanon Cheese manufacturers and supplies various types of cheese, including ricotta, to restaurants, delis, bakeries, and ravioli manufacturers.
The sentence were entered on July 24 and July 31.
Assistant United States Attorney John J. Pease was in charge of the prosecutions.