MIAMI COMPANY SENTENCED TO $1,000,000 FOR IMPORTING PLANT PESTS
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Sidney K. Aki, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Samuel Santiago, Caribbean Area Manager, United States Department of Agriculture, APHIS, Investigative and Enforcement Services, announced that Prime Airport Services, Inc., of Miami, pled guilty today to two counts of importing plants and plant pests, in violation of the Plant Protection Act. Immediately after the plea, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro sentenced Prime Airport Services to a $1,000,000 fine.
Enacted on June 20, 2000 in response to the outbreak of citrus canker, the Plant Protection Act requires importers of plants and plant products to follow regulations designed to stem the release of noxious plant pests. The conviction of Prime Airport Services represents the first felony case for violation of the Plant Protection Act nationwide.
According to court documents, Prime Airport Services is a ground cargo handler at Miami International Airport. On May 7, 2006, Customs and Border Protection detected the pest coleoptera on 198 kilograms of imported hydrangeas in the custody of Prime Airport Services and put the flowers on hold. Coleoptera is an order of insects that includes the Colorado potato weevil, the boll weevil, and the bark beetle, which have caused billions of dollars of damage to American agriculture and forests. Despite the hold, Prime Airport Services released the pest-laden hydrangeas to their buyer. On December 3, 2006, Prime Airport Services received 685 kilograms of imported asparagus. Two weeks later, Customs and Border Protection discovered the asparagus next to an open-air dumpster. The boxes and insect-proof mesh holding the asparagus were broken and torn.
Mr. Ferrer commended investigative efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich.
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.