USDA GRADERS GET PRISON TERMS FOR SCAM AT HUNTS POINT MARKET
WASHINGTON, May 26, 2000—U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General Roger C. Viadero announced today that seven federal employees have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 30 months for their part in a bribery scam at the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market in the Bronx, N.Y. On May 22 in Manhattan Federal District Court, Judge Louis A. Kaplan sentenced all seven to prison terms, ranging from 15 to 30 months, and fines of $4,000 to $70,000 each for a total of $169,000.
Those sentenced were David Ball, Paul Cutler, Edmund Esposito, Glenn Jones, Elias Malavet, Michael Strusiak, and Michael Tsamis. They worked as fruit and vegetable graders for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
In October 1999, after a three-year investigation, special agents of the USDA Office of Inspector General arrested the USDA employees under federal racketeering charges. They had accepted bribes from owners or employees of wholesale establishments located at the Hunts Point Market in exchange for downgrading produce. Once produce was downgraded, the wholesale establishments were able to negotiate downward the price they paid to the producer.
In February 2000, each of the employees pled guilty to bribery charges. All have resigned from their federal jobs.
“Putting away these corrupt graders will send a message, and help farmers and consumers as well as producers,” Viadero said.
Mary Jo White, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, prosecuted this case.