Shortly before an area Butterball turkey farm was raided by local authorities, the company was tipped off about the investigation, NBC-17 has learned.
The station obtained warrants that show Dr. Sarah Jean Mason, the Director of Animal Health Programs with the state Department of Agriculture, admitted to investigators that she lied about the leak.
The Hoke County Sheriff's Office, along with the District Attorney, says in the documents that Mason at first denied leaking to the company that the investigation was taking place. But she later admitted it once confronted with information that proved otherwise.
The North Carolina Department Of Agriculture confirmed in an interview that Mason and the Hoke County Sheriff's Office had been in contact leading up to the raid, as the two departments planned to work together.
The department also confirmed to NBC-17 that Mason is still employed, while an internal investigation continues.
"We are cooperating with Hoke County law enforcement," said Agriculture Dept. spokesman Brian Long.
Mason could not be reached for comment.
In December, sheriff's deputies raided the Butterball facility after an animal rights group, Mercy For Animals, recorded undercover video of turkey's being abused. In the video, workers are seen kicking and dragging the animals.
Mercy for Animals published video on the "Butterballabuse.com" website.
The group told NBC-17 they are shocked at the allegations against the government official.
"Its deeply troubling that a government agency that is responsible for overseeing and monitoring agriculture and food production Is so corrupt, they are in bed with the very corporate interests that were documented abusing and neglecting animals," said Vandhana Bala, with Mercy For Animals.
No charges have been filed against Mason, but the investigation is ongoing.
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