PCA officials sentenced to prison

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salmonella Management

The outbreak was linked to 9 deaths and sickened more than 700 people in 46 states
The outbreak was linked to 9 deaths and sickened more than 700 people in 46 states
Two former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) employees have been jailed for their roles in a 2009 Salmonella outbreak from peanut products.

Samuel Lightsey, a former operations manager at PCA’s Blakely plant, was sentenced to three years and Daniel Kilgore, also plant manager at the site, was given six years.

The former president of PCA, Stewart Parnell, was jailed for 28 years for his part in the outbreak linked to nine deaths and sickened more than 700 people in 46 states.

Lightsey and Kilgore pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and the sale of misbranded and adulterated food. 

Witnesses in sentencing of other defendants

Both men were witnesses in the 2014 trial of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, who worked as a food broker on behalf of PCA; and Mary Wilkerson, who held various positions at PCA’s Blakely plant, including office manager and quality assurance manager. 

Michael Parnell was sentenced to 20 years and Wilkerson to five years last month​.

Benjamin Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said: “[The sentences] reflect the roles that the defendants played in these terrible acts, their acceptance of responsibility for those roles, and their willingness to assist the government, albeit after the fact, in ensuring that all of those who engaged in criminal activity were held accountable.” 

The government presented evidence that the defendants misled customers about Salmonella in products such as the Parnells, Lightsey and Kilgore fabricated certificates of analysis (COAs) that accompanied shipments of peanut products. 

COAs are documents that summarize laboratory results, including test results concerning the presence or absence of pathogens in food. 

According to the evidence, on several occasions, the Parnells, Lightsey and Kilgore fabricated COAs that stated the food was free of pathogens when there had been no testing or tests had revealed the presence of pathogens.

The government also presented evidence that when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials visited PCA’s Blakely plant to investigate the outbreak, Stewart Parnell, Lightsey and Wilkerson gave untrue or misleading answers to questions.

Behind the corporate curtain

US Attorney Michael Moore of the Middle District of Georgia, said: “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.  

“Kilgore and Lightsey acknowledged their wrongdoing, and today their sentences reflect not only their acceptance of that responsibility, but also the requirement of accountability.”​ 

J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, of the FBI Atlanta Field Office, said the agency hoped the sentencing would provide some solace to the families of those that died as a result of the outbreak. 

“Today’s sentencing in federal court will afford these defendants, former corporate officers at Peanut Corporation of America, plenty of time to reflect on their roles in the fatal 2009 Salmonella outbreak as a result of their criminal conduct.”

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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