News and Press Releases

SEA FOOD CENTER, LLC., AND ADRIAN VELA CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY TO SELL MISLABELED SHRIMP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Tracy Dunn, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), announced the filing of a nine-count Information charging Tampa, Florida resident Adrian Vela, 76, and Sea Food Center, LLC., also of Tampa, Florida, with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act by selling mislabeled shrimp.

According to the Information, Adrian Vela, who is the President, sole shareholder, and owner of Sea Food Center, in concert with Florida residents, Richard Stowell and United Seafood, INC., whose majority shareholder is Stowell, conspired to violate the Lacey Act by mislabeling and selling approximately five hundred thousand pounds of shrimp. The shrimp, valued in excess of $400,000, was ultimately sold to supermarkets in the northeastern United States. Stowell and United Seafood pled guilty and were sentenced for their role in the conspiracy on April 27, 2011, before United States District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro.

The mislabeling of foods such as fish and shrimp is prohibited by the federal Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(d)(2) and 3373(d)(3), 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.

If convicted, Vela would face up to 5 years incarceration and fines of up to $250,000.00 on each of the criminal counts in the Information. Sea Food Center would face fines of up to $500,000.00 per count. A trial date has not yet been set in this matter.

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

An information is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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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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