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Illinois Corporation Pleads Guilty to Illegally Dealing in Falsely Labeled Fish from Vietnam

WASHINGTON ó True World Foods Chicago, LLC, was sentenced on March 11, 2008, to pay $60,000 for its role in purchasing and re-selling falsely labeled frozen fish fillets in violation of the Lacey Act, the Justice Department announced today. The Lacey Act prohibits, among other things, the receipt, acquisition or purchase of fish that was taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of U.S. laws or regulations.

The corporation further forfeited $197,930, the purchase value of the fish, and agreed under a plea agreement entered on Dec. 10, 2007, to publish a full page advertisement regarding this incident in a seafood industry publication of wide circulation.

True World Foods Chicago, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of True World Foods, LLC, a Delaware corporation, of which the sole shareholder is True World Holdings LLC, a Virginia corporation. True World Foods Chicago, LLC, admitted in its plea agreement that between Nov. 24, 2004, and May 5, 2005, it bought and received from two other corporations, in a series of six transactions, approximately $197,930 of fish commonly known as basa or Vietnamese catfish (Pangasius hypophthalmus).

The fish had been imported from Vietnam by one of the other corporations falsely labeled as sole in violation of U.S. laws prohibiting the making or submission of a false label for fish, and prohibiting the entry of merchandise by payment of less than the amount of duty legally due. There is an anti-dumping duty applicable to the fish in question of 63.88 percent.

Former True World Foods Chicago employee David S. Wong previously pleaded guilty for his part in purchasing and re-selling the frozen fillets of the fish Pangasius hypophthalmus.

An anti-dumping duty was placed on Pangasius hypophthalmus imports from Vietnam on Jan. 31, 2003, after a petition was filed by the catfish farmers of America alleging that this fish was being sold in the United States at less than fair market value. According to the indictment in this case, between July 2004 and June 2005, two Virginia-based companies, Virginia Star Seafood Corporation and International Sea Products Corporation, illegally imported from Vietnamese companies Binh Dinh, Antesco and Anhaco, more than 10 million pounds of Vietnamese catfish by identifying the fish to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials as other species of fish, including but not limited to sole, grouper, flounder and conger pike.

The indictment further alleged that, after the Vietnamese catfish was imported into the United States, Henry Nguyen and other salesman for the Virginia companies marketed and sold the illegally imported catfish to seafood buyers including Henry Yip of T.P. Company, David Wong of True World Foods, Inc., and David Chu of Dakon International. Yip entered a guilty plea to a misbranding violation, and T.P. Company entered a guilty plea to trafficking in illegally imported merchandise, on Nov. 28, 2007. David Wong entered a guilty plea to two misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act on Jan. 14, 2008. In related cases, Agar Supply Co., Inc. entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act on Nov. 28, 2007.

The case was investigated by special agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Food and Drug Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns for the Central District of California and Senior Trial Attorney Elinor Colbourn of the Justice Departmentís Environment and Natural Resources Division are prosecuting the case.