DENVER – A federal grand jury indicted six additional defendants as part of an ongoing US Department of Justice investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the broiler poultry industry.
The six additional defendants are:
- William Wade Lovette, former president and chief executive officer of JBS S.A. unit Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., who was succeeded by Jayson Penn;
- Timothy R. Mulrenin, director of National Account Sales at Salisbury, Md.-based Perdue Farms and a former sales executive at Tyson Foods Inc.;
- William Vincent Kantola, vice president, foodservice at Koch Foods Inc.;
- Jimmie Lee Little, described in the complaint as “a sales director” at Pilgrim’s Pride, also was charged with “making false statements and obstruction of justice”;
- Gary Brian Roberts, vice president of sales and marketing at Case Farms and former vice president, National Accounts at Tyson Foods Inc. Roberts supervised Mulrenin, according to the complaint.; and
- Rickie Patterson Blake, described in the complaint as “a director and manager” at George’s Inc.
The Sherman Act offense carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to the DOJ. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than $1 million. The false statements offense carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, and the obstruction of justice offense carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
“The division will not tolerate collusion that inflates prices American shoppers and diners pay for food,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division. “Executives who choose collusion over competition will be held to account for schemes that cheat consumers and corrupt our competitive markets. The division will also continue to charge those who knowingly lie to our law enforcement partners and obstruct our investigations — such conduct undermines our criminal justice system and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
In response to MEAT+POULTRY inquiries about Mulrenin, Perdue Farms said, “As this is a matter of active litigation, Perdue cannot comment at this time.”
“Tyson took appropriate actions to address the internal issues and has been fully cooperating with the DOJ as part of its application for leniency under the DOJ’s Corporate Leniency Program,” the company said at the time. A formal grant of leniency will mean that neither the company nor any of its employees will face criminal fines, jail time or prosecution.”
A previous indictment against Penn, Roger Austin, Mikell Fries and Scott Brady, pegged 2012 until at least 2017 as the timeframe of the conspiracy. The superseding indictment, which takes the place of the previous indictment, charges the 10 executives and employees for their participation in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products from at least 2012 until at least early 2019.
The superseding indictment also contains additional allegations against Penn, former CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride; Austin, vice president of fresh foodservice at Pilgrim’s; Fries, president of Claxton Poultry; and Brady, vice president of national accounts at Claxton Poultry.
Fabio Sandri was named CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride following the indictment of Penn who is no longer the company.