Four defendants involved in the scheme to slaughter cattle with cancerous eyes and sell the meat for human consumption are going to be sentenced together Aug. 12 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. In separate orders, federal Judge Charles R. Breyer consolidated the sentencing dates for the four related cases, including the prosecution of Jesse Amaral, Felix Cabrera, and Eugene Corda, along with the solo case against Robert Singleton. Ranchocow_406x250Before Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr., one-time co-owner of Rancho Feeding Corporation, decided to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat, the court was holding Aug. 12 open for a status hearing. His decision to join the others by pleading guilty made that date available for sentencing all four defendants. It means the Rancho case will wrap up almost exactly one year after the indictments in the case were released. Amaral, Corda, and Cabrera were named in an 11-count indictment on Aug. 14, 2014. Singleton, Rancho’s other co-owner, was not named in the Aug. 14 indictment, but instead was charged on Aug. 18, 2014, with one count of distributing adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat in violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). In a plea agreement with the government, Singleton pleaded guilty on Aug. 22, 2014. The 77-year-old Amaral admitted in a sealed plea agreement that he knowingly and with intent to defraud told Rancho employees to process for human consumption cattle that were condemned by the USDA veterinarian. This was done in order to circumvent inspection procedures for cattle exhibiting symptoms of eye cancer and to process cattle with such symptoms for human consumption without full inspection. Amaral further admitted that the scheme involved the use of fraudulent cattle invoices to ranchers from as early as 2012 though January 2014, when Rancho was forced to shut down its Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse and recall all of its production from the previous year. Singleton admitted to being involved in the scheme that saw Rancho’s yardman, Corda, 66, and the “kill floor” supervisor, Cabrera, 56, playing key roles in selecting out the diseased cattle for special handling. The yardman and the “kill floor” supervisor were also convicted on the same single count under plea agreements with the government. Before they are sentenced, each defendant will become the subject of a Pre-Sentencing Investigation Report (PSIR). The judge will rely on that report and the federal sentencing guidelines in determining the sentences. The maximum penalty for each defendant would be three years in federal prison and a $10,000 fine. The Petaluma slaughterhouse is open again under new ownership. Rancho’s demise was a painful event for ranchers in Northern California and Nevada, an area that has long been served by the Petaluma facility.