Meat company owner gets probation for bogus E. coli tests

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The owner of a Connecticut meat processing company was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation and a $15,000 fine in connection with a scheme with one of his employees to falsify E. coli test results.

Memet “Matt” Beqiri, 33, owner of New England Meat Packing in Stafford, appeared before a federal judge in Hartford. He pleaded guilty last year to making and using a false document and aiding and abetting.

Federal prosecutors said Beqiri and the company’s former quality control officer, Debbie Smith, produced bogus test results showing there was no E. coli on swabs taken from 52 goat carcasses and ground beef samples from November 2016 to September 2017, when none of the samples had been submitted to a laboratory.

Authorities said there were no known illnesses linked to meat shipped to several states by the company, which processes custom halal and other specialty meats.

Smith, of Ellington, was sentenced to one year of probation last month after pleading guilty. She told investigators she grew tired of driving the test swabs to the lab on her own time and stopped doing it. After a time, she said Beqiri told her to create bogus reports.

Beqiri’s lawyer, Brian Woolf, said Beqiri acknowledged his wrongdoing and accepted his punishment. He said nearly two dozen people wrote letters to the court supporting Beqiri and praising his character.

“He just happened to do something he shouldn’t have done,” Woolf said. “People make mistakes and he’s paying for it now.”

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