FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 1995

CIV (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

FIVE PERSONS INDICTED IN HONEY ADULTERATION CONSPIRACY WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A federal grand jury in Detroit has returned a 19-count indictment against the owners and employees of a honey processing firm today, charging that they blended corn syrup with some of their honey then sold the mixture as USDA Grade A, or "pure," honey, the Department of Justice announced today. The scheme enabled Groeb Farms Inc., a firm with plants in Onsted, Michigan, and Belleview, Florida, to save more than $1 million between 1988 and 1992, according to the indictment returned Thursday. Most of the honey was sold to food product companies for use as an ingredient in various food products. "In the past the government has won cases against people who adulterated fruit juices, olive oil, and seafood. The indictment today sends a clear message that the government is continuing to vigorously pursue those who it believes have deliberately adulterated foods," said Frank Hunger, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division. Brenda J. Holman, Director of the Food and Drug Administration Detroit's district, said, "Adulterated products not only cheat consumers, but also undermine fair competition and impair the integrity of the marketplace." Named as defendants in the indictment were the owners of Groeb Farms, Ernest L. Groeb Jr., Ernest L. "Ernie Lee" Groeb, and Troy L. Groeb and two employees, Thomas M. Kalvin and Jeffrey M. Neely. In 1990 Groeb called itself "the largest industrial packager of honey in the US," the indictment said. According to the indictment, the defendants, between 1984 and 1992, falsely labeled as USDA Grade A Honey, and otherwise falsely represented to be pure honey, Groeb Farms products that were in fact adulterated. The indictment charged all of the men with conspiring to commit wire fraud and to violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It also charged the Groebs with using interstate wires to further a scheme to defraud buyers of honey. The Groebs were further charged with shipping adulterated and misbranded honey in interstate commerce, and giving customers false guaranties that the company's honey complied with the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The indictment also charged Kalvin and Neely with one count each of making false statements to a grand jury. If convicted, each of the Groebs could be sentenced to over 65 years imprisonment and fined not more than $4 million. Kalvin and Neely each face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine. The case was investigated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is being prosecuted by the Department's Office of Consumer Litigation. The public is reminded that an indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. Despite indictment, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt following a trial at which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and federal law. ##### 95-047