The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco does not like it, but Jesse J. Amaral Jr. is getting two additional months of freedom before he needs to report for sentencing, now rescheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2016. The one-time owner of Rancho Feeding Corp., who has admitted processing diseased cattle at the Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse, is getting the extra time because he is close to settling more than $20 million in claims. He faces those claims due to an illegal scheme which ended in the January 2014 recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef distributed to as many as 40,000 retailers, including Safeway and Walmart stores. U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer approved the delay in sentencing in an order that also warns Amaral to be “prepared to surrender at that time.” He did so over the objections of Assistant U.S. Attorney Hartley M.K. West, who wanted Amaral taken to sentencing in just two weeks, on Dec. 16. But Amaral’s attorney, Michael Dias, successfully argued that his client was needed to help settle the civil lawsuits and to help relocate his wife, Emily Amaral, before he enters prison for a stay that could last as long as 28 years. Mr. Amaral is 77 years old. The Hanford, CA-based Dias acknowledged that federal rules for criminal procedure call for courts to impose sentences “without delay,” but he also pointed out that judges are allowed to deviate from that for “good cause.” And Dias was able to enlist attorneys for both Ruiz Food Products Inc. and RBR Meat Company Inc., who have been involved in mediation of their claims against Rancho Feeding Corp., in saying they are “not opposed” to delaying Amaral’s sentencing. Dias also provided the federal court with a declaration by Emily Amaral explaining that she is scheduled for rotator cuff surgery on Dec. 8 after taking a fall that injured her right shoulder. She expects her recovery to take several weeks and has no family in the area other than her husband to help care for her. “Additionally,” said Dias, “the Defense has been working tirelessly toward a universal settlement in the civil case brought against Mr. Amaral by many of the victims.” He said that many of the “direct and downstream victims” in the civil litigation are involved in exploring whether an “independent resolution” can be achieved. “The Defense believes that a 60-day continuation of Mr. Amaral’s sentencing will provide the additional time necessary for those involved to work out the remaining settlement issues, especially in light of the pending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays and will likely lead to a significant resolution regarding much of the harm for which Mr. Amaral is to ultimately be held criminally liable,” Dias told the court. The defense attorney said there is also “good cause for granting the requested continuance” because Amaral has been selling his real property holdings, including the couple’s personal residence of more than 30 years, to raise the money needed to “make financial amends to the victims of his crime.” Amaral pleaded guilty on Feb. 18, 2015, to conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat. His sentencing was originally scheduled for last July 1. It was delayed, however, when the court needed time to work out so-called “protective orders” on the defense teams to prevent disclosure of financial information involving businesses that were victims of Rancho Feeding Corp. Three other defendants — Eugene Corda, Felix Cabrera, and Robert Singleton — also remain to be sentenced after pleading guilty in 2014. They are supposed to be sentenced after Amaral, according to their plea agreements but, as now scheduled, the three would go before the judge for sentencing on Jan. 20, 2016. West said that any further delay would be an “undue burden” for the other three defendants and their families. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) came across the Rancho Feeding Corp. scheme to slaughter cattle with eye cancer for human consumption, the agency eventually ordered the recall of all production at the Petaluma slaughterhouse from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 7, 2014. The massive recall also caught up business doing custom or speciality slaughter services for others. USDA officials told members of Congress representing the area that the agency had no choice but to require the broad recall even if it hurt others, directly and downstream, who had nothing to do with Rancho’s illegal activities. Those are among the parties now seeking recovery in California courts now involved in the current mitigation. Singleton, who owned Rancho Veal, along with the slaughterhouse real estate, equipment, and certain meat production at the Petaluma facility, said that Amaral and two of their employees —Corda and Cabrera — were responsible for removing the “USDA Condemned” stamps from carcasses with eye cancers and getting the animals slaughtered without the knowledge of USDA inspectors. As result of his cooperation, Singleton was not included in an 11-count federal indictment against the other three defendants filed by a federal grand jury on Aug. 22, 2014. Singleton was charged with a single count of distributing adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat, and he pleaded guilty. On Jan. 7, 2014, USDA forced the Petaluma slaughterhouse to close forever under Rancho Feeding Corp’s operation. The facility was eventually allowed to reopen under new ownership.
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