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The one-time CEO of iconic Texas food brand Blue Bell Creameries has been charged with wire fraud for leading an alleged coverup of the deadly 2015 listeria outbreak linked to its ice cream.
A federal grand jury in Austin handed down an indictment
this week charging Paul Kruse with six counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, Justice Department officials said.
The 2015 outbreak, which grabbed national headlines, was linked to 10 listeria cases, including three deaths.
Federal prosecutors maintain Kruse led a scheme to hide the seriousness of the outbreak from the public. The executive dispatched workers to remove potentially contaminated products from stores without revealing why and instructed staff to falsely claim they were removing the ice cream due to a problem with a machine, according to the allegations.
Under Kruse's watch, the Brenham-based company also delayed a recall of potentially contaminated ice cream and quashed a news release announcing the listeria outbreak, prosecutors also allege.
An attorney for Kruse told the Associated Press
that the indictment falls outside the statute of limitations and the allegations against his client are false.
The indictment come three months after a judge rejected a prior set of charges against Kruse because they weren't presented to a grand jury, according to the AP.
A federal court last month ordered
Blue Bell to pay $17.25 million in fines for distributing contaminated ice cream, the largest-ever criminal penalty in a food safety case, Justice Department officials said.
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