SAN ANGELO, TEXAS — On Oct. 29, a former manager of San Angelo, Texas-based Texas Packing Co. pleaded guilty to misleading regulators, according to the US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Rean Brooks’ guilty plea included misprision of felony, which involves concealing knowledge of the actual commission of a felony before US Magistrate Judge John Parker.
Brooks admitted that he concealed knowledge from federal regulators regarding the meat processing plant’s toxic chemical levels.
“Federal laws require employers to undertake steps that limit exposure to toxic substances to employees and the public,” said US Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “Criminals that deceive regulators and skirt the law, potentially putting lives at risk, will be held accountable for their actions.”
Brooks faces up to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty along with a fine up to $250,000. The release from the Department of Justice did not set a sentencing date.
Court documents showed that Texas Packing was operating refrigeration units containing anhydrous ammonia in violation of OSHA regulations. This posed a danger to the safety of plant employees.
In 2018, Texas Packing was operating its facility with 16,500 lbs of anhydrous ammonia or approximately 6,000 lbs over the level at which a Process Safety Management (PSM) program is required.
An OSHA inspector traveled to the plant and met with Brooks and others and provided a complaint.
The company was informed that a PSM program would cost approximately $20,000. Instead of paying for the program, a Texas Packing employee falsified a document to make OSHA believe it complied with the regulations. Brooks then gave the document to an inspector with intent to deceive.
Later, OSHA ended up fining Texas Packing $615,640 for the facility’s non-compliance due to anhydrous ammonia levels, lack of PSM program, and other violations.