October 20, 2014

Former DeCoster Farms Manager Pleads Guilty to Bribery

Former DeCoster Farms manager Tony Wasmund pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a public official to sell restricted eggs and misbranded food. During a plea hearing in Sioux City, Iowa on September 11, 2012, Wasmund acknowledged the crime. DeCoster Farms owned Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, which were the sources of a huge 2010 Salmonella egg recall. The eggs sickened nearly 2,000 people in the nationwide outbreak.

The charging document states that in April 2010, before the outbreak, Wasmund gave $300 in petty cash to another employee to bribe a USDA inspector assigned to Wright County Egg. Wasmund wanted to get the inspector to approve eggs for sale that had been banned because they did not meet USDA standards. Wasmund admitted that he committed conspiracy to bribe a public official, tried to sell restricted eggs with the intend to defraud, and tried to sell misbranded food with the intent to defraud and mislead. Wasmun wanted the eggs labeled at a higher grade level than USDA rules permitted. The document did not say whether or not the bribe was successful.

Wasmund allegedly knew that the chicken houses and chickens were contaminated with Salmonella before the outbreak occurred, because the Iowa State University laboratory gave him reports in May 2010 stating that Salmonella was found in the farm’s dead chickens. He is the first person to face criminal charges from the government’s investigation of this outbreak.

Wasmund was released pending sentencing. He faces up to five years in prison, since the crime is a felony violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

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