Corona, CA: Ex-Corona Mayor and Nature's Recipe Founder, Jeff Bennett, Found Guilty

The former Corona Mayor, Corona City Council member, and the man who always had the most decorated house during Christmas time, gets probation, home detention and $10,000 in fines. Jeff Bennett, who also developed the Nature’s Recipe dog food brand was sentenced Monday to six months of home detention and fined $10,000 for lying to FBI agents.

He was also ordered by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter to serve 18 months of probation and complete 1,000 hours of community service, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Akrotirianakis said.

Bennett pleaded guilty in March in Los Angeles to one count of making false statements, a federal charge that carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

Bennett admitted lying to FBI agents during an interview on July 13, 2009, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.They were investigating whether Bennett might have committed bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud and other crimes in connection with a $9 million line of credit he had been granted by City National Bank for his dog food company, according to the plea agreement filed in the case.

During the interview, Bennett told the agents that Earth Elements Inc., his company that developed Nature’s Recipe, had been inactive since the brand was sold to the H.J. Heinz Co. in 1996 for a reported $90 million to $100 million and had been filing ”zero dollar” tax returns for years, according to court papers.

Bennett later admitted that Earth Elements received millions of dollars in 2002 / 2003 as the result of lawsuits filed prior to the sale and had filed no tax returns since 2001.

He further agreed not to conceal, transfer or dissipate funds or property that could be used to satisfy taxes, penalties and interest owed by the company for the 2002 and 2003 tax years, according to the agreement.

Bennett reportedly came up with the concept for the dog food after cooking daily vegetarian meals for his ailing canine, which suffered from food allergies. The company’s products included dog kibble made from New Zealand lamb and rice.

In 2004, Bennett did not win a fourth term on the Corona City Council.
(K Pilat, Riverside City Buzz Examiner)

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