Former Blue Bell CEO charged with wire fraud, allegedly knew ice cream was unsafe
TEXAS- Former Blue Bell CEO allegedly knew the company's ice cream did not meet state standards but chose to distribute it for years anyway, according to federal court records filed Friday.
Paul W. Kruse was charged by The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas Friday with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and six counts of wire fraud.
Kruse allegedly knew the ice cream had high levels of coliform bacteria, an indicator of unsanitary conditions at manufacturing plants, according to the criminal information against Kruse.
Blue Bell occasionally had levels of coliform bacteria so high that the company referred to them as "TMTC" — an acronym for "Too Many To Count."
In one known instance, Blue Bell knowingly distributed ice cream that tested positive for listeria, a potentially harmful bacteria, and destroyed records that documented these test results, according to authorities.
"Based on the instruction from PAUL KRUSE to stop the Listeria testing program, another Blue Bell employee destroyed hard copy and electronic records of the two presumptive positive test results," according to the criminal information. "Blue Bell subsequently shipped the products that tested presumptively positive for Listeria to customers without any further testing."
Federal prosecutors accuse Kruse and other Blue Bell employees of participating in a conspiracy to conceal listeria contamination from customers.
Investigators also discovered Blue Bell submitted false statements to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, claiming it recalled contaminated products. Blue Bell did not recall the products or notify customers.
In 2015, three people died after a listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell products, according to the Associated Press.
Kruse will face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted on the conspiracy charge.
As of now, court records do not list an attorney for Kruse and Blue Bell has not commented on the matter.