NEW OXFORD, Pa. — A New Oxford veterinarian was ordered to serve two years of probation, including a year of home detention, and pay a $50,000 fine for his role in defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The scheme lasted for three years and consisted of the vet sending false blood samples for bovine disease testing and issuing false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for the animals, U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam announced Tuesday.
Dr. Donald Yorlets, 68, was sentenced at a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer P. Wilson, Karam said in a press release. Yorlets had previously pleaded guilty to charges relating to the case in 2020, when his veterinary license was temporarily suspended.
According to Karam, federal law requires that each cow transported in interstate or international commerce must be first tested for various bovine diseases, such as Bovine Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Bovine Leucosis and Bovine Viral Diarrhea.
Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis are communicable diseases that can be transmitted to humans under certain circumstances, Karam said.
Bovine Tuberculosis is screened for by what is known as a Caudal Fold skin test. The test must be administered by a USDA accredited veterinarian and involves the injection of a tuberculin substance under the skin and checking it for a reaction 72 hours later.
Testing for Brucellosis, Bovine Leucosis and Bovine Viral Diarrhea requires the drawing of blood and the submission of samples to an accredited laboratory for analysis, according to Karam.
Animals transported in international commerce can only be exported with an International Certificate of Veterinarian Inspection (ICVI), Karam said.
To lawfully issue an ICVI, a USDA accredited veterinarian must verify that each animal has been physically examined, tested for disease, vaccinated and medically treated as required by the USDA prior to shipment, according to Karam.
Yorlets conspired with Daniel and Benjamin Gutman, owners of a livestock exporting business known as Gutman Brothers Dairy Cattle, to avoid the disease testing requirements by falsely representing he tested every cow for Bovine Tuberculosis when, in fact, he did not, Karam said.
Yorlets also submitted hundreds of non-authentic bovine blood samples to a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture testing laboratory in Harrisburg for testing and by issuing false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for the untested animals, Karam said. The false blood test results and Certificates enabled the sellers to quickly export hundreds of untested cows to Mexico, Canada, Qatar and Puerto Rico.
The investigation began in 2017 when the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory (PVL) in Harrisburg became suspicious that dozens of blood specimens submitted by Yorlets were not authentic.
To confirm their suspicions the PVL sent 804 blood samples submitted by Yorlets to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Iowa for Antibody Profile testing.
Each animal has a unique Antibody Profile in its blood, Karam said. If all of the Yorlets’ blood specimens were genuine, Antibody Profile testing should have shown that all 804 blood samples had a unique Antibody Profile.
However, the NVSL’s testing only found 70 unique Antibody Profiles in the 804 samples, according to Karam.
The results confirmed that Yorlets repeatedly submitted the same blood samples for different animals and issued false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for hundreds of cows that were never tested, Karam said. This allowed the sellers to export the animals quickly and reduce expenses incurred in keeping the animals on domestic feeder lots.
Yorlets was a Pennsylvania licensed veterinarian since 1981. His veterinary license was suspended for six months following his guilty plea on August 31, 2020, and he was removed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Accreditation Program.
Daniel Gutman and Benjamin Gutman, both residents of Maryland, were each sentenced to 30 months in prison for a conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States, according to Karam.
Collectively, they were ordered to pay $1,938,646.42 in fines and forfeiture.
The case was investigated by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Homeland Security. Assistant United States Attorney Ravi Romel Sharma prosecuted the case.