The elderly Petaluma, CA, man who ran a scheme to sell cattle condemned by USDA because of diseases like cancerous eyeballs was sentenced Wednesday to one year and one day in federal prison to be followed by two years of supervised release including assignment to a “half-way” house for the first year. Ranchocow_406x250Federal Judge Charles Breyer said 78-year old Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr. will not have to surrender to federal authorities until March 25 because the judge wants to give the U.S. Bureau of Prisons sufficient time to decide where to incarcerate such a frail inmate as Amaral. Federal prosecutors wanted more. They’d recommended a five year prison sentence while arguing more than double that could be justified under federal sentencing guidelines. Government attorneys did acknowledge “Amaral has had multiple heart attacks, melanoma and a host of other ailments.” But they said “Amaral’s offenses are disturbing and serious.” “Amaral ordered slaughterhouse employees – poorly educated individuals reliant on Amaral for their meager wages – to 
carve “USDA Condemned” stamps out of the flesh of slaughtered cattle and to process these condemned 
carcasses,” the prosecution sentencing memo says. “He also ordered such employees to swap and slaughter un-inspected eye cows behind 
inspectors’ backs, and then to trick the inspectors by putting heads of healthy cows next to the 
decapitated eye cows. At his direction, Rancho employees processed and distributed meat from 
 approximately 101 condemned cattle and approximately 79 eye cows, triggering a massive nationwide recall of more than 8.7 million pounds of beef product,” the memo continues. “
In addition, Amaral cheated local farmers who consigned their cattle to Rancho by sending them fraudulent cattle invoices, falsely telling them that their cattle had died or been condemned, when Rancho records prove that the cattle were slaughtered and sold.” Breyer did not impose any restitution on Amaral. The government’s earlier recommendation was for almost $7 million, but at the sentencing yesterday in U.S. District Court for Northern California Amaral was able to show he’d settled multi-million claims from a handful of other beef and cattle businesses that were caught up the massive recall caused by Rancho’s illegal activities. It was almost a year ago that Amaral entered into a plea agreement with the government, admitting he was guilty of conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and un-inspected meat. He was able to delay the sentencing originally scheduled for last July, largely to work on the recall related settlements. Three others remain to be sentenced: 79-year old Robert Singleton, Amaral’s business partner, and Rancho’s former foreman, Felix Cabrera, and yardman Eugene Corda. All three plead guilty to distributing adulterated meat Rancho Feeding Co., which long owned and operated the Petaluma slaughterhouse where the scheme with condemned cattle occurred, did not re-open after USDA forced the massive national beef recall.  The facility was acquired Marin Sun Farms and re-opened in April 2014. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)