Kruse retired from Blue Bell Creameries three years ago. His long tenure in running the iconic ice cream company included 2015 when the company was challenged by listeria in its plant and products. Blue Bell’s problems included it being linked to an outbreak of 10 listeriosis illnesses and three deaths.
While the federal felonies were brought on May 1, he did not enter a not guilty plea on the charges until June 8. Kruse did waive his rights to personally appear for arraignment, his not guilty plea, and to obtain copies of all charging documents. Under its emergency COVID-19 rules, the federal court in Austin continues to conduct as much business as possible without courtroom gatherings.
Kruse is free on an appearance bond he signed promising to be in court whenever he’s called.
The felony charges brought against Kruse are for conspiracy and wire fraud. For each of the seven counts, Kruse could face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fines. Six counts charge him with wire fraud. The seventh is for conspiracy.
Separately from the felonies facing Kruse personally, Blue Bell as a corporation entered guilty pleas on May 1 to two federal misdemeanor charges that the company shipped contaminated ice cream across state lines during the 2015 outbreak. Blue Bell agreed to pay $19.35 million, the second-highest monetary penalty in history for food safety violations.
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