TAMPA — Deputies arrested a self-described flooring worker this month after the five bags of meat he sold undercover authorities turned out to be horse meat, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Jorge Felix Ortega, 26, of 6327 Gant Road, was approached by undercover operatives asking to buy horse meat for human consumption on Feb. 19, an arrest report said. Ortega, who lives on a farm, sold the detectives 40 pounds of meat for $160, the report said. The meat was sent to the USDA for testing.
On Nov. 6, deputies arrested Ortega on charges of selling, buying, possessing or illegally transporting horse meat. He was released on $2,000 bail.
Sheriff's spokesman Det. Larry McKinnon said his agency received reports of extensive illegal sales of horse meat in Hillsborough, but a rigorous investigation revealed only one case.
In Florida, it is illegal for people to slaughter horses with the intention of selling the meat for human consumption — but not illegal for them to slaughter horses to eat themselves or provide meat for big animal rescues.
McKinnon said proving the intent poses a problem for investigators. It's up to lawmakers to decide if restrictions should be tightened, he said.