- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester M. Crawford is expected to plead guilty today to criminal charges of lying about his financial interest in FDA-regulated companies.

Mr. Crawford, who abruptly resigned in September 2005, was charged yesterday in federal court in the District on two misdemeanor counts of making a false writing and conflict of interest.

The charges carry a penalty of up to one year in prison.

Prosecutors said Mr. Crawford failed to report to federal regulators stock interests that he and his wife held in “significantly regulated” companies, including Pepsico Inc. and Sysco Corp., a leading food manufacturer.

In addition, Mr. Crawford did not disclose his income from stock options in Embrex Inc., where he had served on the board of directors. The company makes medicines and vaccines for birds.

Mr. Crawford’s attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, told the Associated Press that the former FDA chief “is going to plead guilty to two misdemeanors tomorrow afternoon, and he is going to admit his financial disclosures had errors and omissions, mostly with his wife’s continued ownership of stocks.”

“At the end of the day, he owned these stocks and he will admit he owned them while he was at the FDA and he will take responsibility for that,” she said.

The charges, filed by the public corruption section of the U.S. attorney’s office, also say that Mr. Crawford in 2004 did not disclose at least $62,000 in stock in Kimberly-Clark Corp., a health and hygiene company.

Documents state that when Mr. Crawford was questioned about his stock in Sysco and Kimberly-Clark by an ethics official at the Department of Health and Human Services, he replied in an e-mail Dec. 28, 2004:

“Sysco and Kimberly-Clark have in fact been sold.”

“In truth and in fact, as Crawford then knew, Crawford and/or his wife held shares in both Sysco and Kimberly-Clark throughout 2003 and 2004,” prosecutors said in charging documents.

In addition, prosecutors raised concerns about Mr. Crawford’s role in an obesity task force that recommended new labeling for food products at the same time he and his wife held stock in Sysco and Pepsi.

Prosecutors said Mr. Crawford had a hidden financial interest in the task force’s recommendations.

The Crawfords also held stock in Wal-Mart, which also falls under FDA regulation, according to the filings.

The Senate appointed Mr. Crawford, a longtime FDA official who had been acting or deputy commissioner for three years, as the agency’s commissioner July 18, 2005.

He resigned abruptly in September 2005 — just two months after his promotion — citing his age, 67.

President Bush named Andrew von Eschenbach, director of the National Cancer Institute, as the acting FDA commissioner.

Mr. Crawford previously served as director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Georgetown University.

In 2004, Forbes.com quoted Mr. Crawford saying that he sold his stock in Embrex before starting work for the FDA in 2002.

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