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Didion Milling to pay victims' estates over $10M for falsifying records

Company agreed to plead guilty to federal charges that they falsified records leading up to a 2017 grain dust explosion.

Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. https://Terms.Law;
Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. https://Terms.Law;

Didion Milling Inc. has agreed to a plea deal on federal charges that employees falsified records for years leading up to a fatal dust explosion at its Cambria, Wisconsin, corn mill in 2017.

The deal calls for Didion to pay a $1 million fine in addition to $10.25 million to the estates of the five workers killed the explosion, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

An explosion in May 2017 killed five people and injured 14 others, resulting in 19 citations and the company’s placement in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The recent plea deal also includes a five-year “organizational probation,” allowing federal inspectors to visit the Cambria corn mill without prior notice up to twice a year.

In 2022, a federal grand jury indicted Didion on nine counts, including knowingly falsifying the logbooks from 2015 until May 2017 that inspectors used to determine whether the plant was safely handling corn dust in compliance with dust-cleaning rules.

Derrick Clark, former vice president of operations; Shawn Mesner, former food safety superintendent; and James Lentz, former environmental manager, will stand trial on Oct. 2, 2023, in federal court in Madison for the 2022 charges.

Three other Didion employees have already pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and obstruction charges.

Sun Prairie-based Didion Milling has been in operation since 1972. The company operates a corn milling and biofuels facility in Cambria and production facilities in Markesan, Wisconsin, and Johnson Creek, Wisconsin.

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