Product Liability

Two More Peanut Corporation of America Managers Get Prison Terms

peanut corp sign Two More Peanut Corporation of America Managers Get Prison TermsA federal judge in Albany, Ga., sentenced two additional Peanut Corporation of America managers to prison Thursday for their roles in a nationwide 2009 outbreak of Salmonella poisoning linked to contaminated peanut products.

Samuel Lightsey, 50, a former operations manager at PCA’s Blakely, Ga., plant was sentenced to 36 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Daniel Kilgore, 46, a former operations manager at the same plant, was sentenced to 72 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

The sentences followed the Sept. 21 sentencing of PCA owner and chief Stewart Parnell, 61, to 28 years in prison. Mr. Parnell’s brother, Michael Parnell, who brokered the company’s contaminated peanut products, received a 20-year sentence for his role in the deadly outbreak. Mary Wilkerson, the former quality control manager at the Blakely, Ga., plant, received five years in prison.

A federal judge hit the former owner and chief executive of a peanut processing company with a 28-year prison sentence Monday for a number of crimes related to the massive 2009 Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 700 people in nearly every state and killed nine.

For Stewart Parnell, the 61-year-old head of Peanut Corporation of America, the punishment amounts to a virtual life sentence. Many family members of victims who died as a result of the Salmonella outbreak were in the Albany, Ga., federal court for the sentencing, urging the judge to impose the harshest sentence possible.

The criminal charges stem from several schemes the U.S. government alleged the company officials engaged in to intentionally distribute contaminated peanut products and defraud customers. At trial, the government produced evidence that the Parnells, Lightsey, and Kilgore faked certificates of analysis that accompanied their products on several occasions. These certificates summarized laboratory results confirming the absence of foodborne pathogens when in fact many of the shipments had tested positive for the presence of Salmonella or had not been tested at all.

The federal government alleged that Stewart Parnell, Mr. Lightsey, and Ms. Wilkerson lied and mislead U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials investigating the outbreak.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore of the Middle District of Georgia had strong words about the “corporate fraud at PCA” that he hoped would send a message to other company leaders who engage in unlawful and deceitful activity.

“Because we all know that it is people who make decisions about what goes on behind the corporate curtain, we’ll be looking to hold those individuals personally accountable when they steer their businesses down the path of fraud,” Mr. Moore said. “Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Lightsey acknowledged their wrongdoing, and today their sentences reflect not only their acceptance of that responsibility, but also the requirement of accountability.”

Source: U.S. Department of Justice