Iowa egg farm tied to "habitual" environmental offender
The owner of an egg farm at the center of a massive salmonella recall was able to expand his egg empire despite being branded a "habitual violator" of Iowa's environmental laws - a label that was supposed to ban him from building any more farms.
Documents reviewed by The Associated Press suggest Austin "Jack" DeCoster, one of the nation's largest egg producers, got around the ban by having associates seek approval for the projects, only to assume control of the enterprise later.
Shortly after DeCoster was classified as a "habitual violator" in 2000, a company run by his associates started pushing for approval of a farm to house up to 1.8 million egg-laying hens.
State records show the company shared the same address and phone number as Decoster's business, and local residents suspected his involvement. Company officials denied that and DNR granted the permit.
The site is now part of Wright County Egg, the company owned by DeCoster that has recalled 380 million eggs.