A Pennsylvania-based company diluted spices sold to prisons across the country, federal prosecutors in South Carolina said.
According to the false claims lawsuit filed last week, FlavorPros LLC cut spices with flour, starch and other fillers to underbid competitors for $500,000 in federal procurement contracts, The Post and Courier reported.
The lawsuit was filed in the Greenwood Division, which covers Greenwood and surrounding counties, because medium-security Federal Correctional Institution, Edgefield is among the affected facilities.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina alleges FlavorPros submitted at least 202 fraudulent claims to more than 80 federal prisons, receiving no less than $530,254.35 for the diluted spices.
According to the complaint, the FDA Forensic Chemistry Center tested samples of three spices FlavorPros sent to the Edgefield prison and found “that the cinnamon provided by FlavorPros contained on average 66% additives of carbohydrate-like material such as dextrin, maltodextrin, starch, or flour. The garlic powder was on average 64% additives of carbohydrate-like material such as starch and flour along with fatty acid ester oil material. The black pepper was on average 57% additives of carbohydrate-like material such as dextrin, maltodextrin, and starch.”
FlavorPros was owned by Charlene Brach of Warren, New Jersey. She was charged last year with three counts of aiding and abetting the adulteration or misbranding of any food or drug and one count of theft of public money on allegations she sold $13,008.50 in diluted spices to the Edgefield prison, but those charges were dismissed after she promised to go through pretrial intervention and agreed to repay that sum.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons received the restitution check in February and Brach has not faced criminal charges in connection with sales to other prisons.
Brach denied guilt on Tuesday and said her company wouldn’t have been responsible if spices were diluted.
“I’m not guilty at all,” she told the South Carolina newspaper.
An affiliated company, Artisan Foods LLC, later won a contract to supply salad dressing to Federal Medical Center, Rochester in Minnesota.
Creamy Italian dressing delivered to the Minnesota facility in October 2018 was labeled Artisan Foods with a “best by” date of October 2019. But after peeling back the label, authorities discovered that the dressing was from FlavorPros and had a “best by” date from the past — July 2018, prosecutors said.
“Artisan Foods not only disguised the source of the dressing, but Artisan Foods also doctored the ‘best by’ date to conceal that the salad dressing was expired,” prosecutors state in the federal complaint.
Neither FlavorPros nor Artisan Foods immediately returned phone calls from The Associated Press requesting comment.
The Associated Press and Assistant Editor Matthew Hensley contributed to this story.