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Scoundrel Spotlight - Eric Goldstein

Posted  July 6, 2023

This week’s Scoundrel In the Spotlight is Eric Goldstein, the former head of the New York City Department of Education (DOE) Office of School Support Services.  Last Wednesday (June 28), a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted him — along with the three founders of the SOMMA Food Group — for bribery and extortion relating to the New York City school lunch program.  According to the DOJ press release announcing the verdict, each of them faces up to 20 years in prison along with significant financial penalties.

From 2008 to 2018, Goldstein oversaw the operations and budget of several New York City DOE departments, including the one responsible for managing food service operations for all New York City public schools.  SOMMA was founded in early 2015 to, among other things, provide food to schools across the country.  One of the foods it featured was antibiotic-free chicken products marketed under the brand name Chickentopia.

Around the same time SOMMA was created, Goldstein and the SOMMA founders launched Range Meats Supply Company to purchase beef products for SOMMA to sell to retail markets and New York City schools.  What followed was a quid pro quo exchange where in return for Goldstein’s help in getting the New York City School system to buy SOMMA’s food products, SOMMA provided Goldstein with significant monetary payments and lucrative business opportunities.

This arrangement continued even after the New York City school program temporarily stopped serving SOMMA’s chicken tenders following a school employee choking on a bone SOMMA had failed to remove from its supposedly boneless tenders.  Goldstein allowed the chicken tenders to return after SOMMA gave him complete control of Range Meats and provided him tens of thousands of dollars in compensation.  According to a New York Times article, in addition to bones, pieces of metal and plastic were also found in SOMMA’s chicken products, causing New York City schools to finally drop SOMMA from its food program for good.

The government did not mince words in condemning Goldstein and his co-conspirators for placing profit above the welfare of our children:

The defendants’ criminal conduct is a textbook example of choosing greed over the needs of our schools and the well-being of our children.  Our children depended on nutritious meals served in schools and instead, got substandard food products containing pieces of plastic, metal, and bones, which is unacceptable.  Today’s verdict demonstrates the consequences of corruptly placing personal profit over the public interests.

It is for this misbehavior and for placing scores of school children in harm’s way that Mr. Goldstein has earned this week’s focus for our Scoundrel In the Spotlight.

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