Disciplinary hearings set in Forbidden Fruit scandal

| 5/1/2002

Last year criminals involved in the Hunts Point bribery cases were brought to justice, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture is just getting started in bringing disciplinary action against parties involved in the 1999 Forbidden Fruit scandal.

The USDA is expected to hold its first disciplinary hearing on July 9 against a firm involved in the 1999 scandal. In the first case against Koam Produce, the committee alleges the company committed several violations of PACA (Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act) in connection with bribes of USDA fruit and vegetable inspectors.

According to The Packer, a newspaper for the produce industry, those downgraded inspections cost sellers more than $40,000.

Six other firms remain under investigation, though the acting chief of PACA, Bruce Summers, has refused to name those firms. Sanctions might range from revocation of licenses to suspension and heavy fines.

Originally, 16 individuals from 14 firms were indicted on the charge of bribing inspectors. Of those 16, 11 pleaded guilty, two were convicted and one was acquitted; two others chose to cooperate with authorities as witnesses. Eight of nine inspectors have been sentenced, with one choosing to be a witness for the U.S. Attorney's Office.