KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Department of Justice Western District of Missouri reported a Wilbur-Ellis manager pleaded guilty in federal court Oct. 24 to being part of a conspiracy to sell adulterated ingredients to pet food processors.
William Douglas Haning, 48, was the manager of a production facility in Rosser, Texas when he participated in the multi-million dollar conspiracy. The company has so far paid more than $4.5 million in restitution, according to the Western District of Missouri.
Haning pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to introduce adulterated and/or misbranded food into interstate commerce, as well as one count of money laundering, the Wester District of Missouri reported. The federal judge residing over the case is US Chief District Judge Rodney Sippel in the Eastern District of Missouri.
Over the past six years, processors from Indiana and Connecticut, as well as six co-manufacturers in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, have been affected by the adulterated and misbranded ingredients sold by Haning at Wilbur-Ellis.
"Conspirators falsely labeled the shipped product as a single-ingredient premium pet food product, such as chicken meal or turkey meal, but in reality, it was a blend of different ingredients that contained by-products and feathers,” wrote the Western District of Missouri.
As a result of selling the adulterated and misbranded ingredients, Haning and others involved benefited more than $4.6 million in 2013 and more than $4.3 million in the form of cash and “other indirect payments,” the district said, as well as other monetary benefits between July 2011 and May 2014.
The court hearing revealed the scandal had been ongoing since January 2008, before the facility was purchased by Wilbur-Ellis in 2011 from Haning and members of his family. After Wilbur-Ellis took ownership of the facility, Haning remained in charge of buying food ingredients and selling ingredient blends at the Rosser plant.
“For years, William Douglas Haning orchestrated a scheme similar to charging filet mignon prices for ground beef. He unjustly lined his own pockets at the expense of unsuspecting consumers,” said Alicia Corder, acting special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) St. Louis Division. “Corporate fraud is one of the top white-collar crime priorities for the FBI.”
Back in October 2018, Wilbur-Ellis Feed LLC and Diversified Ingredients Inc. were ordered by a federal judge in St. Louis to pay a combined $7 million for shipping misbranded ingredients to pet food processors in 2013 and 2014. Wilbur-Ellis pleaded guilty to those charges in April 2018.
Diversified Ingredients, Inc. was found to be an intermediary between Wilbur-Ellis and pet food manufacturing facilities affected by the adulteration.
“US consumers – and especially pet owners – look to the [US Food and Drug Administration] to ensure that their pets’ food is not only safe and wholesome, but is also accurately labeled. When criminals introduce adulterated and falsely labeled pet food into the US marketplace, they put the health of companion animals at risk,” said Charles L. Grinstead, special agent in charge of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations in Kansas City. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice food manufacturers who put profits ahead of the public health.”
While the misbranded and adulterated ingredients did cause trouble for Haning and other involved, no companion animal illnesses or health issues were reported in connection to the adulteration. Judge Sippel recommended a sentence of five years of probation for Haning as a result of his plea.
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