(WKBN) – Two meat-packing executives from Texas pleaded guilty to charges that they defrauded the U.S. government when they sold adulterated meat to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
West Texas Provisions, Inc. president Jeffery Neal Smith, 49, and operations manager Derrick Martinez, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States before Magistrate Judge Lee Ann Reno Tuesday afternoon.
According to court documents, Smith and Martinez admitted to selling more than 750,000 pounds of uninspected, misbranded, or adulterated meat to 32 prisons in 18 states at a cost of over $1 million.
West Texas Provisions marketed its products as USDA inspected when, in fact, it was processed without inspection, according to prosecutors.
Plea papers indicate the company processed whole cow hearts — not permitted in ground beef products — and labeled it “ground beef.” They kept the whole hearts offsite until inspectors left the premises, then processed the hearts on nights and weekends, when inspectors weren’t working.
They often kept the lights off inside the facility while processing uninspected meat, hid uninspected meat in the freezer while inspectors were in the building, and distracted inspectors from looking at the product, prosecutors said.
Both men could be sentenced up to five years in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.