Two former Brooklyn, N.Y., business owners have pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud by using counterfeit U.S. Department of Agriculture stamps to sell misbranded, lower-quality beef at inflated prices to consumers. Howard Mora of New York and Alan Buxbaum of New Jersey each face up to 20 years in prison and criminal forfeiture of $250,000.
Seth DuCharme, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Bethanne Dinkins, special agent-in-charge at USDA's Office of Inspector General, announced the guilty pleas.
“Mora and Buxbaum rang up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent profits by charging customers more than the defendants’ products were worth, and now they will pay a price for their avarice,” DuCharme stated.
Between September 2011 and October 2014, the defendants were co-owners of A. Stein Meat Products Inc., a wholesale meat processing and distribution business located in Brooklyn. During this period, the defendants purchased beef products that had been graded Choice quality by graders at USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service but directed their employees to carve off the “Choice” markings and re-stamp them as “Prime” using counterfeit stamps. The meat was then sold at inflated prices to customers in the New York City metropolitan area.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant U.S. attorneys Ryan Harris and Turner Buford are in charge of the prosecution.