DENVER – A grand jury in the US District Court in Denver has charged six more defendants for their roles in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products. The charges follow the indictments of four other industry executives in June.
Those most recently charged are Timothy Mulrenin, director of national account sales for Perdue Farms; William Kantola, senior vice president of foodservice for Pilgrim’s Pride; Jimmie Little, also with Pilgrim’s Pride; William Lovette, former president and chief executive officer of Pilgrim’s Pride; Gary Roberts, who was an employee at a chicken processor in North Carolina, according to the indictment; and Rickie Blake, a director and manager at a chicken processor in Arkansas.
“Executives who choose collusion over competition will be held to account for schemes that cheat consumers and corrupt our competitive markets,” said Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s antitrust division. “The division will also continue to charge those who knowingly lie to our law enforcement partners and obstruct our investigations — such conduct undermines our criminal justice system and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Named in the indictment this past June were Jayson Penn, then the chief executive officer of Pilgrim’s Pride; Roger Austin, vice president of fresh foodservice at Pilgrim’s; Mikell Fries, president of Claxton Poultry; and Scott Brady, vice president of national accounts at Claxton Poultry.
The original indictment states the executives conspired to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens across the United States from at least as early as 2012 until at least early 2017. The charges, which are being brought under the Sherman Act, carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.
The DOJ said the investigation is ongoing.