A former Nebraska cattle inspector has been indicted on charges that he faked reports about mad cow disease, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

Galen Niehues, 41, of Cozad, was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Lincoln with making false statements and mail fraud.

Niehues was employed by the state Department of Agriculture from July 2009 through March under a U.S. Food and Drug Administration grant. The indictment says he submitted inspection reports on 92 Nebraska cattle operations, along with travel expenses, but never actually performed the inspections.

The indictment does not address whether officials suspect any of the herds in question pose a public health risk. It also doesn't mention how the alleged faked inspections were discovered.

Niehues collected about $35,500 in pay and benefits while working for the state, the indictment says.

No number was listed for Niehues, and court records don't list his attorney.

His first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 2. Niehues faces up to 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if convicted.

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Bobbie Kriz-Wickham referred comment to the FDA. A message left Wednesday for an FDA investigator wasn't immediately returned.



U.S. District Court, Nebraska: http://www.ned.uscourts.gov/

Nebraska Department of Agriculture: http://www.agr.state.ne.us/

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/