Pet food suppliers to plead guilty

June 3, 2009 at 10:04 PM
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LAS VEGAS, June 3 (UPI) -- A Las Vegas food ingredients company and its owners have agreed to plead guilty to charges stemming from a widespread tainted pet food case in 2007.

ChemNutra Inc. and owners Stephen and Sally Miller have signed a plea agreement admitting to 27 misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated and/or misbranded food and one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, reported Wednesday. They will formally enter their pleas June 16 in federal court in Kansas City, Mo.

WLAS-TV reported the tainted wheat gluten ChemNutra provided to pet-food manufacturers led to mass pet-food recalls after thousands of dogs and cats were sickened or killed.

While terms of the plea agreement were not disclosed, each misdemeanor could be punished by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the Millers and $200,000 for the company, the report said. The felony count carries a prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine for Millers and $500,000 for the company. They also could be ordered to pay restitution.

While the government claimed ChemNutra and the Millers knew their Chinese broker had used inaccurate custom codes to prevent inspection in China and that they distributed misbranded wheat gluten that overstated its protein content, prosecutors did not accuse the Millers or ChemNutra of knowing the wheat gluten was adulterated with melamine.

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