The owner of a defunct Petaluma, Calif., slaughterhouse behind a massive meat recall has pleaded guilty to knowingly distributing cattle with eye cancer and processing condemned carcasses.
Jesse "Babe" Amaral Jr., former owner of Rancho Feeding Corp., was the last of four defendants to plead guilty for their roles in the conspiracy after being indicted by a federal grand jury last August.
Amaral, 77, entered his plea Feb. 18, the office of the U.S. attorney for Northern California said Thursday.
Employees at the slaughterhouse were instructed to carve out "USDA Condemned" stamps from cattle carcasses and switch the heads of cows exhibiting eye cancer with heads from healthy cows.
Amaral's sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 1. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the U.S. attorney's office said.
A co-owner, Robert Singleton, 78, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy in August. Employees Eugene Corda, 66, pleaded guilty in October and Felix Cabrera, 56, pleaded guilty in November.
Rancho Feeding Corp. was shutdown last February after nearly 9 million pounds of meat was recalled from the facility.
The recall included meat sent to Kroger, Food 4 Less and Wal-Mart stores. Nestle issued a voluntary recall for its Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets.
The slaughterhouse was sold to an upscale meat processor, Marin Sun Farms, shortly after the recall.