Two individuals have been charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to use counterfeit U.S. Department of Agriculture stamps to misbrand USDA Choice beef products as higher-quality USDA Prime beef and sell those products at inflated prices. Defendants Howard Mora and Alan Buxbaum were arrested Sept. 24 and were scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy.
Announcing the charge were Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Bethanne M. Dinkins, special agent-in-charge for USDA's Office of Inspector General.
Between September 2011 and October 2014, Mora and Buxbaum were co-owners of A. Stein Meat Products Inc., a wholesale meat processing and distribution business located in Brooklyn, N.Y. As alleged in the indictment, the defendants purchased beef that had been graded Choice quality by graders employed by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and then 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.
“Customers and consumers are entitled to get what they pay for, especially when the product is food on their tables,” Donoghue stated. “This office and our law enforcement partners will remain vigilant in enforcing laws that ensure the grade and quality of food products.”
Dinkins added, “The integrity of USDA’s food processing systems and the security of the nation’s food supply is of the utmost importance to the Office of Inspector General, and we will continue to dedicate resources to the investigation of matters where it is called into question.”
The charge in the indictment is an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment.
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.