The former president and CEO of Blue Bell Creameries has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Austin on seven charges in connection to an alleged scheme to cover up a deadly listeria outbreak in 2015.

Paul Kruse

According to a press release Wednesday from the U.S. Justice Department, Paul Kruse was charged with six counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  The charges, according to federal prosecutors, relate to his alleged efforts to conceal what the company knew about listeria contamination in certain Blue Bell products.

The indictment states the company was notified in February 2015 by state officials that two ice cream products from the Brenham factory tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, which can lead to severe illness or death in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.

The indictment alleges that Kruse created a scheme to deceive customers by directing employees to remove potentially contaminated products from store freezers without letting consumers or retailers know the true reason.  It also states that he instructed employees to tell consumers who asked about the withdrawal that there was an unspecified issue with a manufacturing machine.  The company did not immediately recall the products or issue formal warning to customers about possible contamination.

Blue Bell recalled all products in April 2015 after they were linked to ten listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.  The company closed all of its plants the same month to clean and update its facilities, and has taken steps to enhance sanitation procedures and test products since reopening in the summer of 2015.

In May, Blue Bell pleaded guilty in a related case to two counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products.  It was sentenced in September to pay criminal penalties totaling $17.25 million, and agreed to pay an additional $2.1 million to resolve civil False Claims Act allegations regarding products manufactured under insanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities, including the military.  The total $19.35 million in fine, forfeiture, and civil settlement payments make up the second largest-ever amount paid to resolve a food safety matter.

Kruse was previously charged by criminal information in May, during the temporary closure of grand juries in the Western District of Texas due to COVID-19.  The information was later dismissed without opposition from the government, but the grand jury has resumed operations and now sets out the charges against Kruse.

Click here to read the full indictment.

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  1. Its a good thing this was handled by the federal government. He would have never been indicted locally.

    1. We know. That is one of the many reasons it is being over seen by Federal prosecutors!

  2. I hate to see this, the company took full responsibility and paid a huge fine after loosing millions of dollars shutting down their plants and completely refitting those facilities. To go after one person who was dealing with an evolving crisis seems petty and unfair for the government to do. There are so many other things the government can spend our tax dollars on rather than trying to fix a problem that has already been fixed and the people/company involved paid a massive price. Time to leave it alone.

      1. Seriously: they said listeria could’ve been a factor but it wasn’t the COD in the three.

        All three had immunity-compromised systems too.

        It could’ve been but at the same time everything could’ve been done right and this occurred.
        What irritates me though is they continue to their the book at them but not Chipotle, who knowingly too did the same thing – send out tainted food, and it killed even more.

        1. To Fed Up, Its NOT about the Listeria Issue . Its about the fact that Kruse and others at Bluebell Knew about it and tried to cover it up..

          1. What is obvious to me is that many of the people posting on this site have never dealt with an evolving crisis on a large scale. It is so easy to cast judgement when you have not had to go through this. In most cases, the facts don’t come in neatly wrapped and obvious, but is separate pieces of information that leaders have to try to assemble into a true picture of what is happening, in real time. I would like to see the naysayers have to try to figure this out as it happens. Hindsight is truly 20/20. For those of you that think this is so easy, I say let those of you who are without sin cast the very first stone. I suspect if you are honest with yourselves, there will be no one left to throw the stones, just like the bible story. Blue Bell likely did the best they could, I am sorry the three ill people passed away. The court system will ensure their families receive a proper form of justice. It is time to forgive and allow a company that has done so much for our town and area to grow and prosper to that they can continue the good work they do in our economy and our community.

    1. I agree. There are so many worse things to be prosecuted. So much comes down to who has the political power. Going after Mr. Kruse is petty especially when I see larger businesses do worse things and politicians breaking laws and not prosecuted.

      1. This is one those worst things and THANK GOD it is being looked into by those outside of the local good ole boy network.

  3. I would like to see other people at Bluebell indicted , The ones who knew about the listeria issue and helped to cover it up, They are just as wrong as Kruse to have kept it from the public. I no longer purchase Bluebell products due to this incident.

    1. Agree with you. There’s upper management on the production floor & those names need to be supeona when this goes to trial. I’m not referring to the labor that makes & pkgs.the product …I’m referring to salaried & many those are Stockholders. I’m certain those names will come out. Still cannot believe cartons are not plastic sealed before the lids placed for closure. That should have been No.1 on the list of corrections.

    2. Believe me I know how you feel,I worked there on the line for 25yrs and they tried to take away from our retirement but they did get ahold of our other money,they were pretty snicky about it

      1. How awful & you gave them 25 yrs.dedicated service. Then Mr.Kruse needs to pay up. Am sure he made plenty $$$$$$ on his Stock….as many in tkhis town did… deposits of $100,000.00 plus & most Stocks passed on to their kids…..weren’t earned. Nevertheless this happens when stocks don’t go public.k Yes if other monies u earned were taken away then he & his management need to pay & let’s get this shame put away. You dedicated employees need to be given back $$$ lost. Let’s hope the Federal courts know what all in no ey was taken from you. I hope fellow employees that gave years to build the cuompany will come fiorth with their stories. The community needs to know.

        1. I am amazed at how entitled some people feel, and then they bring God’s name into it to justify their feelings. Stock is property, it is no different than someone leaving their home or bank account to their children. Did those children earn that property, of course not, but no one disputes that their children are the rightful heirs of that property. Secondly, if you don’t like or trust the people you work for, have the courage to leave and go find another job. To sit back behind to comfort of your key board wishing ill to other people who might be wealthier than you is wrong and certainly no what God would want you to do. You can engage in gossip (another biblical sin), try to harm other people with your stories, or you can accept that you made a decision to work somewhere BY CHOICE for a long time, and enjoy the blessings of that experience. It is time for adults to think and behave like adults, not envious entitled children.

      2. If you know where to go and who to talk to you will discover a lot of other interesting stories and details about the inner workings of the “little creamery”. SAD.

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