Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr., former co-owner of the Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse previously known as Rancho Feeding Corporation, has joined three other defendants in pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat. All four defendants will proceed to status hearings and sentencing later this year as there is now no need for any trials over charges involving diseased cattle reaching the human food market and causing a year’s worth of beef production to be recalled. The plea was entered with U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after Amaral reached an agreement with government attorneys. It was announced by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and Lori Chan, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General for the western region. The plea agreement remains a sealed court document, but Haag’s office says that Amaral, 77, admitted that from 2012 through Jan. 10, 2014, he knowingly and with intent to defraud directed Rancho employees to process for human consumption cattle that had been condemned by the USDA veterinarian, 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. Amaral further admitted knowingly causing Rancho to submit fraudulent cattle invoices to farmers between at least 2012 and January 2014. He was indicted on Aug. 14, 2014, along with Rancho employees Eugene Corda, 66, and Felix Cabrera, 56. All three men were charged 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 mail fraud conspiracy in furtherance of the same scheme, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Amaral was also charged with mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and mail fraud conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, in a separate scheme to defraud farmers by means of false invoicing. Robert Singleton, 78, the owner of Petaluma-based Rancho Veal Corporation, was charged by Information on Aug. 18, 2014, with one count of distributing adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat in violation of the FMIA. He pleaded guilty on Aug. 22, 2014. In so doing, Singleton admitted knowingly participating 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. He also admitted participating in the scheme to fraudulently invoice farmers. Cabrera, Rancho’s “kill floor” supervisor, pleaded guilty on Nov. 26, 2014, to conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat. Corda, Rancho’s yardman, pleaded guilty to the same offense on Oct. 10, 2014. Amaral’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 1, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer. A status hearing is scheduled for Singleton, Cabrera, and Corda on Aug. 12, 2015, also before Judge Breyer. The maximum statutory penalties for conspiracy to distribute adulterated meat are 5 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. The maximum statutory penalties for fraudulent distribution of adulterated meat are 3 years imprisonment, 1 year supervised release, a $10,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. The maximum statutory penalties for mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy are 20 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. Notwithstanding these statutory maximums, any sentence imposed by the court following conviction would take into consideration the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. Hartley M.K. West is the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting this case, with the assistance of Rosario Calderon. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by agents of the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, and USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit, Compliance and Investigations.