News and Press Releases

FLORIDA SEAFOOD COMPANY AND ITS PRESIDENT PLEAD GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO MISLABEL SHRIMP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hal Robbins, Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), and Adam Putnam, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), announce today’s guilty plea by Richard Stowell, 65, of St. Pete Beach, Florida, and United Seafood Imports, Inc. (United), located in St. Petersburg, Florida, to a twenty-four count Information, charging them with conspiring to commit violations of the Lacey Act and Food Drug and Cosmetics Act.

According to Court documents and statements made at the hearing, Stowell, who was the majority shareholder in United, in concert with Shifco, Inc. (Shifco), conspired to violate the Lacey Act and the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act by mislabeling and selling approximately one million pounds of shrimp. To execute the scheme, less marketable shrimp from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia was misbranded and marketed as shrimp coming from Panama, Ecuador, and Honduras. According to documents in the Court file, the mislabeled shrimp, valued at between $400,000 and $1,000,000, was ultimately sold to supermarkets in the northeastern United States.

Sentencing for both Stowell and United is scheduled for July 15, 2011 before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. Shifco previously pled guilty on January 11, 2011, to related Lacey Act violations, and was sentenced on March 25, 2011.

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 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 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.

Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of NOAA OLE, and the State of Florida for their coordinated investigative efforts. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman O. Hemming, III.

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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.

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