TAMPA COMPANY AND ITS PRESIDENT SENTENCED FOR MISLABELING OF SHRIMP
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), announced yesterday’s sentencing of defendants Adrian Vela, 76, and Sea Food Center, LLC., both of Tampa, Florida, on charges that they conspired to mislabel shrimp. The two had previously pled guilty to a nine-count Criminal Information, which charged them with conspiring to violate the Lacey Act and the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act.
U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard sentenced Vela to three (3) years of probation. Sea Food Center was sentenced to one year of probation, a $15,000 fine and $1,200 special assessment. United was previously sentenced before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro on July 27, 2011.
According to documents filed with the court and statements made during Vela’s guilty plea, Vela engaged in a scheme from June 2008 through June 2009, in which he and Sea Food Center oversaw the false labeling of less marketable substituted seafood product, “Shrimp, Product of Thailand,” “Shrimp, Product of Malaysia,” and “Shrimp, Product of Indonesia,” which was misbranded, marketed, and intended to be marketed as “Shrimp, Product of Panama.” This conspiracy involved more than 500,000 pounds of shrimp, with a retail value of between $400,000 and $750,000.
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 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 NOAA-OLE for its thorough investigative efforts. This case was 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.