(CBSDFW.COM) – The former president of Blue Bell faces fraud charges by a Texas grand jury in an alleged cover-up scheme during the 2015 Listeria contamination in certain ice cream products.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that Paul Kruse has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to the indictment, Kruse is accused of concealing from customers what the company knew about the contamination.
It was in February 2015 that state officials notified Blue Bell that two ice cream products tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes at the company’s Brenham factory, according to the indictment.
“Kruse allegedly orchestrated a scheme to deceive certain Blue Bell customers, including by directing employees to remove potentially contaminated products from store freezers without notifying retailers or consumers about the real reason for the withdrawal,” the Justice Department said in a news release.
According to the indictment, Kruse directed employees to tell those who asked about the products’ removal that there was an “unspecified issue with a manufacturing machine.”
There was no immediate recall of the contaminated products or communication with customers about the Listeria contamination.
“American consumers trust that the individuals who lead food manufacturing companies will put the public safety before profits,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will take appropriate action against those who ship contaminated products and choose not to tell consumers about known risks.”
The company was sentenced on Sept. 27, 2020 to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties after pleading guilty to two counts of distributing adulterated food products in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Blue Bell provided no comment on the current legal actions against its former president. The company said Kruse left as CEO and president in February 2017 and left the board in February 2019.
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