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Men sentenced in chicken theft case

Three men have been sentenced after being convicted of fraud and theft relating to poultry.

Rana Dhaia, owner of Townsend Poultry in Wolverhampton, England, and Darren Williams and Elliot Smith, dispatch managers at 2 Sisters Food Group in Llangefni, Wales, were involved in the fraud.

Dhaia was sentenced to four years and three months in prison. Williams and Smith were given two years in prison, suspended for two years. Williams must do 300 hours of unpaid work, and Smith must do 250 hours of unpaid work.

Destruction of records

An audit at 2 Sisters Food Group revealed Williams and Smith supplied Townsend Poultry with chicken. Townsend Poultry was not a customer of 2 Sisters, and there were no records of any deliveries.

Inquiries with local firms used by 2 Sisters Food Group confirmed 84 deliveries from the company to Townsend Poultry worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Williams and Smith destroyed the related records.

Forged handwritten dispatch notes were found, which indicated that £300,000 ($376,000) worth of chicken had been stolen, leading to potential traceability issues.

Williams and Smith both pled guilty to charges in March 2023 at Caernarfon Magistrates’ Court. Dhaia was convicted after a trial in October 2023 after pleading not guilty to acquiring criminal property.

“The offenses that took place not only cost the 2 Sisters Food Group thousands of pounds but also could have had far-reaching implications due to traceability issues if they had not been caught,” said Detective Constable David Hall of the North Wales Police Economic Crime Unit.

Andrew Quinn, head of the Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU), said the custodial sentences strongly deter those considering food crimes.

“Together, we are stronger in the fight against food fraud, and we continue to work with partners to help ensure that consumers are protected. Anyone suspicious of food crime can report it safely and confidentially to the NFCU.”

The food crime unit’s latest

The annual NFCU update in late 2023 revealed that four trial dates were confirmed in 2024, linked to three investigations. 

Two concern the illegal diversion of animal by-products into the human food chain. A third is European distribution fraud involving the theft of food items with an estimated value of £520,000 ($655,000). A trial date is set for July 2024. The final case involves the alleged obstruction of an NFCU officer attempting to conduct an unannounced inspection. The suspect is due to appear in court in March.

Other investigations involve smokies and the misrepresentation of premium brand potatoes, salmon, and housed chicken as free-range.

Highlighted key food crime threats included criminality in the beef, pork, and lamb supply chains; fraud within the chicken sector; the diversion of meat and poultry animal by-products (ABP) back into the food and feed chain; the entry of illegally harvested or misrepresented shellfish into the human food chain and dangerous non-foods sold to UK consumers.

Publication of an updated food crime strategic assessment, compiled with help from the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit, is planned for spring 2024.

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