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Federal produce inspector indicted for accepting bribes

department of justice

For Immediate Release — U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Texas

Wednesday, December 20, 2023 — A federal grand jury last week indicted a Mansfield, TX, man for submitting false inspection reports in exchange for bribe payments, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton.

Timothy Peppel, 68 years old, was a federal produce inspector with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Peppel was responsible for conducting produce inspections and providing inspection reports to companies buying and selling produce.

According to prosecutors, a wholesale produce company, American Fresh Produce (AFP) BB #:292363, began requesting produce inspections from USDA AMS in 2014 in order to rate their produce. AFP used the inspection reports to negotiate a price for the produce they purchased from produce brokers. Peppel was one of the inspectors who inspected and graded AFP’s produce and created inspection reports.

Shortly after Peppel started performing inspections of AFP produce, Peppel solicited and received weekly bribery payments of $1,000 to $1,500 from the owner of AFP. In exchange for the bribery payments, Peppel agreed to create produce inspection reports that falsely downgraded AFP’s produce, which AFP was able to use to negotiate lower prices for the produce they had purchased.

Peppel has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and receiving bribe by a public officer; five counts of honest services wire fraud; and one count of receiving bribe by a public official. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison on the count of conspiracy; 20 years in prison on each count of honest services wire fraud; and 15 years in prison on the count of receiving bribe by a public; official plus restitution.

The FBI Dallas Office and U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marty Basu and Joshua Detzky are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcus Busch assisted in the investigation of the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Erin Dooley
Public Affairs Officer