The manager of an Iowa egg farm that recalled 550 million eggs in a 2010 Salmonella outbreak that may have sickened 2,000 people has reportedly entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiring to bribe a public official to allow the sale of eggs that failed to meet federal standards. United States v. Wasmund, No. 3:12-cr-03041 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Iowa, plea entered September 12, 2012).
According to Tony Wasmund’s attorney, the former manager, who oversaw some of the enterprises owned by Jack DeCoster, is cooperating with government authorities. The indictment charged Wasmund with authorizing the use of $300 in petty cash to be used by a colleague to bribe a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector assigned to DeCoster’s Wright County egg farm. The bribe was purportedly intended to persuade the inspector to approve the sale of shell eggs that had been withheld for falling short of applicable USDA standards.
Prosecutors apparently refused to discuss the matter, saying that the plea was filed under seal, but that additional details will be made public in the future. A news source has indicated that documents made public earlier this year show that Wasmund knew about the presence of Salmonella in DeCoster’s chicken houses in the months preceding the outbreak. He could face five years in prison, but has been freed on bond pending sentencing. Other DeCoster employees have reportedly retained counsel and several have testified before a grand jury on more than one occasion. One attorney familiar with the case was quoted as saying, “I sense it’s kind of a roving investigation. I don’t sense there’s any real direction to it.” See Huffington Post, September 9, 2012; Law360, September 12, 2012.