Criminal jury trial set to go in Atlanta over scheme to relabel expired poultry as fresh
By Dan Flynn on March 8, 2019
Food Safety News – Randal Hamby, once a salesman for Amigos Meat Distributors, meat, and poultry distributors in Georgia, won’t be going to trial later this month on fraud and conspiracy charges related to food safety.
The charges against him were dismissed after he died last year.
A federal jury trial, however, will commence in Atlanta on March 18 to determine the guilt or innocence of Atilio Graniello, who was Amigo’s general manager.
Conspiracy to sell misbranded poultry products
Graniello was responsible for the day-to-day activities at Amigo’s Atlanta facility.
He stands accused of conspiracy to sell misbranded poultry products, causing poultry products to become adulterated and misbranded, forging an official device and market, and using an official device and market without authorization.
Graniello is free on a $10,000 bond while awaiting trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
In the Atlanta courtroom, the government plans to tell the jury that Hamby and Graniello, in December 2012, “knowingly and willfully” conspired to repackage and relabel poultry products without authorization from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The scheme began when Amigo’s warehouse contained a large number of poultry products that were either out of date or that would become out of date before they could be sold. The Hamby-Graniello conspiracy involved the repackaging, relabeling, and sale of old and damaged poultry products that should have been destroyed, according to court documents.
In January 2013, Hamby allegedly contacted an information technology specialist to obtain a label manufacturing computer program. Once the device was acquired by Amigos, Hamby, and Graniello could create, manufacture and print fraudulent labels.
Court documents say Graniello hired the technology specialist to work with Hamby in developing fraudulent labels showing the USDA mark of inspection. Amigos bought the label printer on Jan. 28, 2013.
On multiple occasions in early 2013, Hamby removed labels from poultry products from Amigos suppliers and replaced them with fraudulent labels printed by Amigos employees. As the scheme continued into the summer of 2013, Hamby and Graniello directed Amigos employees to do the repacking and relabeling.
The charges against Graniello say the labels were fraudulent because they depicted the production was more recent than reality with current “use-by” dates. Further, the labels included the counterfeit USDA market of inspection and purported to be from known poultry suppliers.
Although the federal felonies allegedly occurred during 2013, Hamby was not arrested until July 2018; and Graniello was not charged until after Hamby died later in 2018. Until then, he was referred to in court documents as “Co-Conspirator A.” Federal Judge Timothy D. Batten will preside over the jury trial.
One pre-trial issue concerns whether statements made by Hamby may be used at the trial by the government in prosecuting Graniello.
Hamby gave a statement to two USDA investigators from the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) back on Nov. 1, 2013. Graniello’s defense attorney Christine C. Hernandez wants anything said by Hamby excluded because he cannot be subjected to cross-examination.
(Republished with permission of Food Safety News. To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)