AMARILLO, Texas (KTSM) — Two Texas meatpacking executives pleaded guilty for their roles in a major scheme to defraud the government of more than $1 million by selling misbranded, uninspected, and degraded beef to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
West Texas Provisions, Inc. president Jeffrey Neal Smith, 49, and operations manager Derrick Martinez, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States Tuesday afternoon.
According to federal documents, the men admitted to selling more than 775,000 pounds of meat to 32 prisons in 18 states. The meat included whole cow hearts labeled as ‘ground beef.’ The Bureau of Prisons reportedly paid $1,011,166 to West Texas Provisions for the beef products.
West Texas Provisions marked their meat products as USDA inspected when it had been processed without an inspection, according to the two defendants.
Whole cow hearts, which are not permitted in ground beef products were processed and labeled as ground beef, according to court documents. The company kept the whole hearts offsite until inspectors left the plant, then processed the hearts on nights and weekends when the inspectors were gone.
They often kept the lights off in the plant while processing the uninspected meat, hid uninspected meat in the freezer while inspectors were in the building, and distracted inspectors from even looking at the meat, according to the two men.
Smith and Martinez each face up to five years in prison for the scheme. A sentencing date has not yet been set.