Meatpacker Sues Producers, Alleges Conspiracy

A meat packer alleges a producer bribed a plant worker to falsify carcass weights in a conspiracy that resulted in an over-payment of more than $222,000. ( USDA )

A suit filed in U.S. District Court in Vermont alleges a conspiracy “to falsify weight records” that led to an over-payment of more than $222,000 in 2017 and 2018.

Walden Local, a Massachusetts-based meat packer, claims Arthur Chickering III and his daughter, Suzanne Chickering, conspired with Jeffrey Nichols, a lead cutter on the kill floor of Vermont Packinghouse, North Springfield, VT. The alleged changes to weight records by Nichols resulted in an overpayment of "at least $173,976 to Suzanne Chickering for the meat itself and $49,492 to VPH for the processing of the meat in 2017 and 2018," court records indicate.

Arion Thiboumery, general manager of Vermont Packinghouse, told the Brattleboro (VT) Register, “we filed a police report about the alleged fraud with the Springfield Police Department." However, he said Vermont Packinghouse is not a party to the suit.

Court documents stated, "Suzanne Chickering is a farmer who is in the business of selling beef cows, hogs and other farm products. Arthur Chickering III is the father of Suzanne Chickering and her agent."

A representative for Walden Local wrote that over a two-year period, the Vemont Packinghouse slaughtered and processed beef and pork for Walden Local – the meat company – at an agreed upon price per pound.

Walden had separate contracts, one with the Chickerings to purchase the animals, and another with VPH to process the meat.

The lawsuit alleges that Arthur Chickering III regularly transported his daughter's livestock to the slaughterhouse where employees determined the live weight at arrival. After slaughter, the carcass hanging weight was determined.

Nichols job at VPH was on the kill floor, and another employee weighed the animals and recorded the hanging weights in a log book. Cassandra LaRae-Perez, a lawyer representing Walden Local, told the Brattleboro Register, "After the employee responsible for weighing and recording the hang weight of the Chickering animals recorded the information, Defendant Nichols changed the handwritten records to reflect amounts greater than the actual weights shown on the scale."

It is alleged that Nichols also changed the live weight records to correspond with the hanging weight changes and did so at the behest of Arthur Chickering III.

"Defendant Suzanne Chickering knew that Defendant Arthur Chickering was bribing Defendant Nichols to falsify the weight records to reflect weights that were higher than actual weights of the animals that she was delivering to VPH," wrote LaRae-Perez, who alleged Suzanne Chickering invoiced VPH based on the fraudulent weights.

Through a lawyer, Suzanne Chickering claims there “is absolutely no factual basis for this lawsuit."

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