U.S. Attorney’s office in Illinois was active this evening, and appears to have interest in protecting the food we consume. According to a press release:
Ernest Griffin, 71, took bribes from individuals who wanted to obtain Sanitation Certificates from the Illinois Department of Public Health without attending a 15-hour course and taking an exam. In exchange for an approximately $175 bribe, Griffin submitted false certifications and false test results to IDPH to make it appear that a bribe payer had completed the course, passed the exam, and was entitled to the certification. Griffin’s bribery scheme lasted from approximately 2008 until January 2015, when he was confronted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Griffin pleaded guilty last year to one count of federal program bribery. U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah imposed the 18-month sentence Wednesday in federal court in Chicago. Judge Shah also fined Griffin $5,000.
The sentence was announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI.
“Defendant’s certificates-for-bribes scheme was a serious abuse of the public trust,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen E. Merin argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Defendant’s scheme not only potentially caused physical harm to members of the public, but also chipped away at the confidence that the public has in the ability of our government to enforce laws and regulations designed to protect the public health.”
The state of Illinois and the city of Chicago require that food service establishments have a person on site at all times who holds an Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate. In order to obtain the certificate, the IDPH required that individuals take an IDPH-approved 15-hour course and pass an IDPH exam. The course included instruction on food-borne illnesses, personal hygiene, food safety, pest control, proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and the prevention of food contamination. Griffin was authorized by the IDPH to teach the course and to administer the exam.