Memet Beqiri - also known as Matt Beqiri - 32, of Tolland, pleaded guilty in Hartford federal court to a charge related to his meat processing business’ falsification of dozens of E. coli test results, U.S. Attorney John Durham announced.
Beqiri is the owner and general manager of New England Meat Packing in Stafford Springs, which is a federally inspected business engaged in the slaughtering, processing, selling and transporting of meat and meat food products.
Durham said that as part of the USDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan for the business, is required to perform one generic E. coli carcass swab for every 300 animals slaughtered and to periodically collect ground beef samples for E. coli testing.
Between Nov. 3, 2016 and Sept. 9, 2017, Beqiri authorized the preparation and submission in the company’s Lab Sample Report binder, which the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) reviews, a total of 36 documents relating to 52 separate carcass swabs and ground beef samples on behalf of New England Meat Packing.
According to Durham, the 36 documents were each on the letterhead of a certified laboratory that tests food product samples to ensure safety and wholesomeness and signed by the laboratory director. The documents stated that the required E. coli testing of samples submitted by New England Meat Packing had been conducted and completed, and that all 52 samples tested negative for E. coli.
“In fact, none of the 52 carcass swabs and samples had been submitted or tested by the identified laboratory, or any other laboratory,” Durham said. “The 36 documents were fraudulently prepared using laboratory letterhead obtained from previous testing that New England Meat Packing had conducted with that laboratory.”
During the investigation, Beqiri admitted to an investigator that the documents had been faked, and that his business did not collect or submit the samples to the laboratory because he wanted to create the appearance that he was compliant with USDA testing requirements.
“FSIS investigators are on the job protecting public health every day,” FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg said. “Our work is critical to protect American families and the food supply, and we will not tolerate blatant disregard for food safety laws.”
Beqiri pleaded guilty to one count of making and using a false document and aiding and abetting. When he is sentenced on Nov. 12, he will face a maximum term of five years in prison. Beqiri is currently released on a $25,00 bond pending his sentencing.
Symptoms of E. coli include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting for several days. Others may endure a minor fever.
"Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended," according to the USDA. "Most people recover within a week, but, rarely, some develop a more severe infection. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, is uncommon with STEC O103 infection.
“After this defendant’s fraudulent conduct was uncovered, he admitted to an investigator that he ignored the USDA’s meat testing requirements because he considered the process to be an inconvenience and a nuisance,” Durham said. “Such reckless conduct seriously endangers public safety and will be prosecuted.”
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