One of the choicest cuts of Brooklyn criminal beef just made it to “prime” time.
Two Brooklyn meat purveyors are facing federal wire fraud charges over accusations they padded their beef prices by carving USDA “Choice” stamps off their cow carcasses and replacing them with counterfeit stamps bearing the higher-grade “Prime” label.
Howard Mora, 67, and Alan Buxbaum, 65, were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud in an indictment unsealed in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday. The two co-owners of the Sunset Park-based A. Stein Meat Products Inc. were arrested that morning.
The bungling butchers allegedly ordered a meat market employee to get a New Jersey-based stamp-maker to give them counterfeit stamps resembling those used by USDA inspectors to label meat, according to the seven-page indictment. They then directed their workers to purchase “Choice” cuts of beef and had them shave off select slices where they would re-label it “Prime.”
“Customers and consumers are entitled to get what they pay for, especially when the product is food on their tables,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said. “This office and our law enforcement partners will remain vigilant in enforcing laws that ensure the grade and quality of food products.”
The criminal charges against Mora and Buxbaum is not the first food fight the two have found themselves in.
In 2014, Marc Lemonis, host of the CNBC reality show “The Profit” sued them in court for breach of contract, alleging they reneged on a deal to turn over a 50% stake in their Brooklyn Burger brand in exchange for $190,000 to cover payroll expenses. The case was dismissed in May 2015.
The current criminal case has far more hanging in the balance. The alleged scheme, which prosecutors claim stretched from Sept. 2011 to Oct. 2014, could cost them a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars.
Buxbaum’s lawyer Arthur Aidala said his client “looks forward to being fully exonerated.” Mora’s lawyer did not return calls.
The two were each released Tuesday on $250,000 bond.