SEA FOOD CENTER, LLC. AND ITS PRESIDENT PLEAD GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO MISLABEL SHRIMP
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Tracy Dunn, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), announced that defendant Adrian Vela, 76, of Tampa, and Sea Food Center, LLC., also based in Tampa, Florida, pled guilty today to three counts of a nine-count Information, charging them with conspiring to commit violations of the Lacey Act and Food Drug and Cosmetics Act (FDCA).
According to court documents and statements made at the hearing, Vela was a majority shareholder of Sea Food Center. In particular, Vela engaged in a scheme from June 2008 to June 2009, in which he and Sea Food Center oversaw the false labeling of less marketable substituted seafood product, “Shrimp, Product of Thailand,” “Shrimp, Product of Malaysia,” and “Shrimp, Product of Indonesia,” as “Shrimp, Product of Panama.” According to documents filed with the court, this conspiracy involved more than five hundred thousand pounds of shrimp, with a retail value between $400,000 and $750,000.
The mislabeling of foods such as fish and shrimp is prohibited by the federal Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(d)(1) and 3372(d)(2), and the FDCA, 21 U.S.C. § 331. The Lacey Act, in pertinent part, makes it unlawful for a person to falsely identify any fish that has been, or is intended to be, imported, sold, purchased, or received from any foreign country or transported in interstate or foreign commerce. The FDCA, in pertinent part, prohibits the alteration or removal of the whole or any part of the labeling of food, if such act is done while such article is held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce.
Sentencing for both Vela and Sea Food Center is scheduled for November 21, 2011 before U.S. District court Judge Joan A. Lenard.
Mr. Ferrer commended NOAA-OLE for its investigative efforts. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman O. Hemming, III.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.