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Owner of Petaluma slaughterhouse that processed sick cattle pleads guilty

Offenses led to recall of beef in Pleasanton, other locations year ago

The co-owner of a Petaluma slaughterhouse that processed sick cattle for human consumption, some with eye cancer, has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to a conspiracy charge.

Jesse "Babe" Amaral Jr., owner of the now-defunct Rancho Feeding Corporation, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded and un-inspected meat, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, said.

Amaral, 77, is the fourth former Rancho Feeding Corporation employee to plead guilty to charges stemming from the investigation of the slaughterhouse's practices.

Amaral admitted that between 2012 and Jan. 10, 2014, he knowingly and with intent to defraud directed Rancho employees to process for human consumption cattle that had been condemned by the U.S.Department of Agriculture's veterinarian, Haag said.

Amaral also admitted directing employees to circumvent inspection procedures for cattle with symptoms of eye cancer and to process those cattle for human consumption without full inspection, Haag said.

Amaral also admitted knowingly causing Rancho Feeding Corporation to submit fraudulent cattle invoices to farmers between at least 2012 and January 2014, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. The maximum penalty for mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy is 20 years imprisonment, three

years supervised release and a $250,000 fine, Haag said.

The maximum penalty for conspiring to distribute adulterated meat is five years in prison, three years' supervised release and a $250,000 fine, Haag said. Amaral is scheduled to be sentenced July 1 before U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer.

The offenses between 2012 and January 2014 led to a nationwide recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef in February 2014 and the closure of Rancho Feeding Corporation.

On Aug. 18, 2014, a federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Amaral, 78, Eugene Corda, 66, Rancho's yardman, and Felix Cabrera, 56, Rancho's "kill floor" supervisor.

— Bay City News Service

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