Gluten Free Fraud: Breadmaker Gets 9-Year Sentence

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Convicted of 23 counts of fraud for intentionally misleading customers into believing his products were gluten-free, North Carolina breadmaker Paul Evan Seelig is now facing 9 to 11 years behind bars.

Some are criticizing the sentence as excessive, arguing that Seelig basically sold mislabeled bread. However, if you consider the state of criminal battery law, and the number of people who purchased the bread, Paul Evan Seelig may have actually gotten off easy.

During his trial, Seelig admitted that he intentionally mislabeled his bread as gluten-free, selling it to people who he knows to suffer from Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, reports WRAL. In fact, to build camaraderie, he even told customers that he, too, suffers from such an affliction.

To people with Celiac disease, consuming gluten is akin to eating poison. Gluten causes a host of digestive problems, eventually leading to malnutrition and destruction of one's small intestine.

In the simplest terms, it causes the body to destroy itself.

Even though criminal battery usually involves violence and person-to-person contact, the law also criminalizes intentionally causing harmful or offensive substances to come into contact with another person.

Although prosecutors most often see these cases in the form of defendants causing others to unknowingly ingest drugs or poisonous substances, when you consider the damage that gluten could of--and did--cause Seelig's customers, his actions rise to the same level of harm.

So while 9 years may seem a little excessive for feeding people mislabeled bread, consider that Paul Evan Seelig actively and intentionally misled his customers to not only trust him, but to ingest bread that he guaranteed was free of their own personal poison.

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