Feds indict cattle-exporter brothers with York County farm, alleging $7.5M fraud
Two brothers who own and run a cattle export business with farms in York and Lancaster counties have been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly falsifying records related to the health of cattle purportedly sold for about $7.5 million.
Daniel and Benjamin Gutman, both 38 and of Maryland, are facing one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit offenses against the United States, 13 counts each of making false statements and 11 counts each of wire fraud, according to federal court records. The charges are felonies.
They were indicted Wednesday in Harrisburg's federal court, according to U.S. Attorney David Freed's office.
In August, a veterinarian they worked with — Dr. Donald Yorlets, 66, of New Oxford, Adams County — pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Labor, according to court records. He awaits sentencing.
Gutman Brothers Ltd., based in Baltimore, has farms at 1333B Krafts Mill Road in Heidelberg Township, just outside Jefferson, and also in the New Holland area of Lancaster County.
Neither brother responded Thursday to phone and email messages seeking comment. It's unclear if they have retained attorneys.
Worldwide sales: The cattle was sold to buyers in Qatar, Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico, according to the indictments.
"Many of the sales involved hundreds of animals," the indictments state — including 2,900 cows sold to Qatar for $5.3 million.
The indictments allege the two Gutman brothers and Yorlets routinely submitted thousands of blood samples of cattle for bovine disease testing between November 2016 and February 2020.
"However, blood was not drawn from each animal," according to the indictments. "Dr. Yorlets and the defendants only drew blood from a small group of animals they knew to be disease free and falsely represented to the (lab) that the blood was taken from a larger group of animals. Thus, the same blood was repeatedly submitted … for many different animals."
After the lab gave Yorlets reports showing the animals were disease-free, he then issued certificates of veterinary inspection for the cattle, "even though most of the animals had not been tested," according to the indictments.
Once the Gutman brothers had those certificates, they were able to ship the cattle to buyers, federal authorities allege.
No TB testing? Yorlets also issued certificates of veterinary inspection to the Gutman brothers "that falsely represented that thousands of cattle had tested negative for Bovine Tuberculosis when, in fact, Yorlets did not administer the tests," the indictments allege.
Those certificates, which represented about 3,400 animals, were submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for endorsement, despite most of them never being tested, according to the indictments.
The Gutman brothers needed the USDA endorsements to ship their cattle oversees, officials said.
Buyers of the cattle sent interstate and international wire transfers to Gutman Brothers Ltd. totaling about $7.5 million, according to the indictments.
Federal prosecutors will be seeking the forfeiture of more than $7 million, according to Freed's office.
Communicable diseases: The USDA requires that cattle being transported between states and internationally be tested for a number of bovine diseases, two of which —bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis — can be transmitted to humans under certain circumstances, Freed's office said.
Lab testing determined that only 122 of 1,069 samples were genuine, which is about 11%, the indictments state.
Each wire-fraud count has a maximum prison term of 20 years, while each of the conspiracy and false-statement charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, said Dawn Clark, spokesperson for Freed's office.
However, federal judges have sentencing latitude, meaning maximum penalties aren't always an accurate indicator of defendants' potential sentences, Clark said.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.