CEDAR RAPIDS – On October 22, 2015, the team that investigated Jack and Peter DeCoster and their egg company following a national foodborne illness outbreak were honored at the 18th Annual Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) awards ceremony in Washington D.C. The team received the CIGIE Gaston L. Gianni, Jr. Better Government Award. Among the team members honored was Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa.
In 1978 the Inspector General Act established Offices of Inspectors General within federal agencies to combat fraud, waste, and abuse and to improve the economy and efficiency of program operations. The Inspectors General community has nearly 14,000 professionals conducting audits, investigations, and inspections among other duties. The CIGIE is composed of Inspectors General and government ethics and law enforcement officials.
The Gaston L. Gianni, Jr. Better Government Award is given annually to recognize persons who contribute to attaining the ideals of the Inspector General Act and work toward improving the public’s confidence in government.
The Wright County Egg investigative team was honored based upon its exemplary work investigating and prosecuting Jack and Peter DeCoster and their Iowa egg company, Quality Egg LLC (Quality Egg), in the wake of one of the largest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history. As many as 56,000 people were sickened as a result of eating eggs associated with the outbreak.
In the course of its investigation, the team uncovered evidence that company personnel bribed an inspector of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to release eggs that had been retained or “red tagged” for failing to meet minimum quality grade standards. In a guilty plea, Quality Egg acknowledged that, on at least two occasions in 2010, its employees gave a cash bribe to a USDA inspector.
As a result of the investigation and prosecution, both Jack and Peter DeCoster were sentenced to serve three months in prison and fined $100,000. Quality Egg was ordered to pay a fine of $6.79 million and placed on probation for three years. All three defendants were ordered to make restitution in the total amount of $83,008.19. Quality Egg also agreed to forfeit $10,000 as part of its plea agreement.
“The 72 federal Inspectors General Offices have one of the most difficult and important jobs in all of government,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch at the awards ceremony. “It is a task basic to the functioning of our democracy: the task of ensuring that ours is a government not just of the people, but for the people – one sensitive to their concerns; responsive to their needs; and respectful of their sacrifices, whether in tax dollars or tours of duty.”
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, Kevin W. Techau, stated, “I am very pleased to congratulate Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan and our federal partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Justice for receiving the CIGIE award. This recognition stems from multiple federal agencies working closely together to protect consumers by investigating, prosecuting and convicting Jack and Peter DeCoster and their egg company following one of the largest national foodborne illness outbreaks ever experienced in the country. This award highlights the importance of effective government oversight in the area of food safety.”
Other members of the Wright County Egg investigative team who were honored with the award are identified in the attached congratulatory notice from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.