HARRISBURG, PA — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Dr. Donald Yorlets, age 68, of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, was sentenced this week to 24 months of probation, including 12 months of home detention, and a $50,000 fine by U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer P. Wilson for defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 2016 and 2019 by submitting false blood samples for bovine disease testing and by issuing false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for the animals.
According to U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam, federal law requires that each cow transported in interstate or international commerce 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. 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.
Animals transported in international commerce can only be exported with an International Certificate of Veterinarian Inspection (ICVI). 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.
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. Yorlets also submitted hundreds of non-authentic, bovine blood samples to a PA Department of Agriculture testing laboratory in Harrisburg for testing and by issuing false Certificates of Veterinary Inspection for the untested animals. 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 Dr. Yorlets were not authentic. To confirm their suspicions the PVL sent 804 blood samples submitted by Dr. 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. 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. The results confirmed that Dr. 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. 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. 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.