FLORIDA SEAFOOD COMPANY AND ITS PRESIDENT SENTENCED FOR MISLABELING INDONESIAN, MALAYSIAN AND THAILAND SHRIMP
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”), announced that defendants Richard Stowell (Stowell), 65, of St. Pete Beach, and United Seafood Imports, Inc. (United), of St. Petersburg, Florida, were sentenced today based on their earlier guilty pleas to an Information, charging them with conspiring to commit Lacey Act violations.
According to court hearings and records, from January 25, 2007 through August 7, 2009, Stowell, the President, sole shareholder, and owner of United, in concert with Mark Platt and Shifco, Inc., whose majority shareholder is Platt, conspired to violate the Lacey Act by mislabeling and selling approximately one million pounds of shrimp. The shrimp, valued at more than $700,000, was ultimately sold to supermarkets in the northeastern United States. Platt and Shifco pled guilty and were sentenced for their role in the conspiracy in March 2011, before United States District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro.
The mislabeling of foods such as fish and shrimp is prohibited by the 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.
U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro sentenced Stowell to two (2) years of probation, six (6) months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, and restrictions on working in the food industry and seafood industry. Further, Stowell was required to complete one hundred hours of community service for each year of probation, inclusive of writing an article describing his conduct in the instant case, and assisting in teaching the seafood industry about Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Regulations and Lacey Act requirements, violations of which resulted in three felony convictions for Stowell. United was sentenced to two years’ probation as to each count of conviction, to run concurrently, a $200,000 fine, and a $3,200 special assessment. Pursuant to representations made on the record, United is in the process of dissolution.
Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of the 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.
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.