RHODE ISLAND AND FLORIDA SEAFOOD COMPANIES INDICTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO VIOLATE THE LACEY ACT IN SELLING CHINESE SALMON AS RUSSIAN SALMON
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hal Robbins, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Special Agent in Charge, and Charles H. Bronson, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), announced today that Brian D. Eliason, 48, of Rhode Island, and Northern Fisheries, Ltd., a company incorporated in Rhode Island, have been charged with conspiracy and Lacey Act violations contained in a two-count Indictment returned against them on September 9, 2010. In addition to Eliason and Northern FIsheries, Mark Platt, 52, of Boca Raton, Florida, and Shifco, Inc., located in Hialeah, Florida, were also charged in the Indictment with conspiring to commit Lacey Act violations.
If convicted of the charges in the Indictment, Eliason and Platt each face up to 5 years’ incarceration and fines of up to $250,000 per count. Northern Fisheries, Ltd. and Shifco, Inc., face possible fines of up to $500,000 per count. Additionally, the Salmon at issue is subject to forfeiture under a separate count of the Indictment.
According to the allegations of the Indictment, Eliason, President and owner of Northern Fisheries, in concert with Platt and Shifco, whose majority shareholder is Platt, conspired to violate the Lacey Act. During the period from January through February of 2010, Platt, and Shifco, in concert with Eliason and Northern, engaged in a scheme, wherein Platt oversaw the false and fraudulent repackaging and labeling of 1,500 pounds of frozen chum Salmon fillets, which had been purchased from a Chinese company, as being chum Salmon fillets, “Product of Russia.” The mislabeling of foods such as fish is prohibited by the federal Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(d)(1) and 3372(d)(2), and the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”), 21 U.S.C. § 331. The Lacey Act, in pertinent part, makes it unlawful for a person to falsely identify any fish which 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.
Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of NOAA and the State of Florida for their coordinated investigative efforts. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman O. Hemming, III.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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.