By Dan Flynn on August 23, 2019
Food Safety News – Federal prison is likely in the future for another food industry executive.
Memet Beqiri, the owner of Connecticutt’s New England Meat Packing LLC in Stafford Springs, will be sentenced on November 12, 2019, after pleading guilty to submitting fraudulent E. coli test results required to meet USDA’s HACCP sampling requirements.
The defendant is also known as Matt Beqiri, 32, of Tolland.
U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson accepted a Magistrate Judge’s finding that Beqiri knowingly and voluntarily entered into a plea of guilty that should be acceptable to the Court.
Magistrate Judge Robert A. Richardson found Mr. Beqiri competent to enter the plea; that he understands the charges against him, and his right to counsel.
By pleading guilty, Beqiri gives up his right to trial and to appeal. He also understands the Court is “obligated to consider” advisory sentencing guidelines.
At sentencing, the maximum a federal judge could impose is five years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.
Court documents lay out the facts of the case. Beqiri was the owner and general manager of New England Meat Packing LLC at all relevant times to the federal felony.
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspected the facility for slaughter, processing, selling, and transporting of meat and meat products, including beef, veal, goat, and lamb.
FSIS required New England to perform one generic E. coli carcass swab for every 300 animals slaughtered for periodic collection of ground beef samples for E. coli testing. A certified laboratory is supposed to collect the samples and test the swabs.
The FSIS Office of Field Operations is the end recipient of the testing.
Beqiri pleaded guilty to one count of making and using a false document. He admits that from on or about November 3, 2016, to September 9, 2017, he “knowingly and willfully.” made falsified documents in place of test results. This included presenting 36 falsified laboratory reports concerning 52 swabs that purporting taken from carcasses.
Court documents say Beqiri sent no carcass swabs and no ground beef samples to the identified laboratory for E.coli testing.
Beqiri is free on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond. His cannot travel outside of New York, New Jersey, and the New England states, and he was ordered to surrender his firearm and passport.
The Court ordered the completion of a pre-sentencing report by October 1. The defendant’s sentencing recommendations are due Oc.t 29, and the government’s suggestions are due bu November 5.
FSIS’s Office of Investigations, Enforcement, and Audit (OIEA) led the investigation. “FSIS investigators are on the job protecting public health every day,” said Carmen Rottenberg, FSIS Administrator. “Our work is critical to protect American families and the food supply, and we will not tolerate blatant disregard for food safety laws.”
New England Meat Packing may face potential civil, administrative consequences not addressed by the Beqiri plea agreement.
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Official Department of Justice Statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Owner of Connecticut Meat Supplier Admits Fabricating E. Coli Test Results
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Administrator Carmen Rottenberg, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, announced that MEMET BEQIRI, also known as Matt Beqiri, 32, of Tolland, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty today in Hartford federal court to a charge related to his meat processing business’s falsification of numerous E. coli test results.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Beqiri is the owner and general manager of New England Meat Packing, LLC, located in Stafford Springs, a federally inspected business engaged in the slaughtering, processing, selling and transporting of meat and meat food products for human consumption.
Pursuant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) approved Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for New England Meat Packing, the company is required to perform one generic E. coli carcass swab for every 300 animals slaughtered and to periodically collect ground beef samples for E. coli testing.
Between November 3, 2016 and September 9, 2017, Beqiri authorized the preparation and submission in the company’s Lab Sample Report binder, which the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) reviews, a total of 36 documents relating to 52 separate carcass swabs and ground beef samples on behalf of New England Meat Packing.
The 36 documents were each on the letterhead of a certified laboratory that tests food product samples to ensure safety and wholesomeness and signed by the laboratory director. The documents stated that the required E. coli testing of samples submitted by New England Meat Packing had been conducted and completed, and that all 52 samples tested negative for E. coli.
In fact, none of the 52 carcass swabs and samples had been submitted or tested by the identified laboratory, or any other laboratory, and the 36 documents were fraudulently prepared using laboratory letterhead obtained from previous testing that New England Meat Packing had conducted with that laboratory.
During the investigation of this matter, Beqiri admitted to an investigator with USDA’s FSIS that the documents were fraudulent, and that his business did not collect and submit the samples to the certified laboratory because he did not correlate the potential impact on food safety with his sampling program and wanted to create the appearance he was compliant with all USDA HACCP testing requirements.
There have been no known instances of illnesses reported by anyone who consumed the meat in any of the states where the meat was distributed.
“After this defendant’s fraudulent conduct was uncovered, he admitted to an investigator that he ignored the USDA’s meat testing requirements because he considered the process to be an inconvenience and a nuisance,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “Such reckless conduct seriously endangers public safety and will be prosecuted.”
“FSIS investigators are on the job protecting public health every day,” said Carmen Rottenberg, FSIS Administrator. “Our work is critical to protect American families and the food supply, and we will not tolerate blatant disregard for food safety laws.”
Beqiri pleaded guilty to one count of making and using a false document and aiding and abetting, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson on November 12, 2019. Beqiri is released on a $25,000 bond pending sentencing.
The plea agreement filed today in association with Beqiri’s guilty plea does not address potential civil administrative consequences for New England Meat Packing’s failure to test the meat it distributed.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Office of Investigations, Enforcement and Audit. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah R. Slater.