Former USDA officials charged with fraud
Lynn Brezosky: Express-News
BROWNSVILLE — A 19-count federal indictment accuses two former Laredo-based U.S. Department of Agriculture officers and the owner of a pest-control company of teaming up to allow truckloads of infested plants and broccoli to enter the United States while billing for fumigation that didn't occur.
USDA plant protection and quarantine officers Robert Perez, 35, and Jose Homero Reyes, 48, worked with Ambush Exterminators owner Arturo Ramirez, 46, to fraudulently charge the government for fumigation services and the overtime to oversee it, the indictment states.
Melissa O'Dell, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said foreign pests could easily hop out of trucks during transport and potentially devastate U.S. agriculture.