Exec Gets 28 Years for Nine Salmonella Deaths

     ALBANY, Ga. (CN) – In the stiffest punishment ever in a U.S. food safety case, a company owner whose salmonella-tainted peanuts killed nine people was sentenced Monday to 28 years in federal prison.
     Former Peanut Company of America president and owner Stewart Parnell, 61, of Lynchburg, Va., was convicted on Sept. 19, 2014, of 67 of the felony counts against him, including multiple counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, sale of misbranded food and introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce.
     He also falsified test results and shipped the peanuts without waiting for test results, prosecutors said.
     Nine people died in an estimated 22,000 salmonella cases in 46 states linked to the Peanut Company of America in 2009. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extrapolated the 22,000 cases from more than 700 reported cases.
     Parnell’s brother, Michael Parnell, was sentenced Monday to 20 years in federal prison. Michael Parnell, 56, of Midlothian, Va., was a food broker for the company.
     Also Monday, Mary Wilkerson, 41, of Edison, Ga., was sentenced to five years in prison. She was an office manager and quality assurance manager.
     Senior U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands estimated that Stewart Parnell and Wilkerson are responsible for $100 million to $200 million in damages to more than 250 victims, and Michael Parnell for $20 million to $50 million in damages to more than 50 victims. Sands will determine the restitution at a date not yet set.
     Co-defendants Samuel Lightsey, 50, and Daniel Kilgore, 46, both of Blakely, Ga., will be sentenced for fraud on Nov. 1.
     Food company owners have been executed in China for safety violations, but Stewart Parnell’s sentence is believed to be the stiffest ever in the United States.

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