DOJ announces criminal allegations against peanut executives

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2013 - The Department of Justice unsealed a 76-count indictment yesterday charging four former officials of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and a related company with numerous charges relating to a salmonella outbreak in 2009.

The charging documents charge that Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, Samuel Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore participated in a scheme to manufacture and ship salmonella-contaminated peanuts and peanut products, misleading PCA customers. As alleged in the indictment, those customers ranged in size from small, family-owned businesses to global, multibillion-dollar food companies.

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The investigation into the activity at PCA began in 2009, after the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced a national outbreak of salmonella to a PCA plant in Blakely as the likely source. The Blakely plant was a peanut roasting facility where PCA roasted raw peanuts and produced granulated peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut paste. PCA sold these peanut products to its customers around the country. 

“When those responsible for producing or supplying our food lie and cut corners, as alleged in the indictment, they put all of us at risk,” said Stuart F. Delery, who heads the Justice Department's Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will not hesitate to pursue any person whose criminal conduct risks the safety of Americans who have done nothing more than eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

Stewart Parnell, 58, of Lynchburg, Va.; Michael Parnell, 54, of Midlothian, Va.; and Samuel Lightsey, 48, of Blakely, Ga., are charged with mail and wire fraud, the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and conspiracy.  Stewart Parnell, Lightsey and Mary Wilkerson, 39, of Edison, Ga., were also charged with obstruction of justice.

Also yesterday, DOJ unsealed an information filed against Daniel Kilgore, 44, of Blakely. On the same day that charges against Kilgore were filed, he pleaded guilty to that information, which charged him with mail and wire fraud, the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and conspiracy. 

Although PCA is now no longer in business, the allegations against each of the defendants arise from his or her conduct while at PCA and a related company. 

The following allegations are set forth in the indictment:  Stewart Parnell was an owner and president of PCA; Michael Parnell, who worked at P.P. Sales, was a food broker who worked on behalf of PCA; Lightsey was the operations manager at the Blakely plant from on or about July 2008 through February 2009; and Wilkerson held various positions at the Blakely plant - receptionist, office manager and quality assurance manager - from on or about April 2002 through February 2009.  As charged in the information, Kilgore served as operations manager of the PCA plant in Blakely from on or about June 2002 through May 2008.

The PCA indictment can be viewed at:


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