Massachusetts Fish Packer Found Guilty of Falsely and Misleadingly Labeling Frozen Fish Fillets
WASHINGTON— Stephen C. Delaney, 55, of Quincy, Mass., was found guilty on April 8, 2011, by a federal jury in Boston of falsely labeling frozen fish fillets from China.
Specifically, Delaney was convicted of a felony violation of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife statute. The jury found that, on or about April 15, 2009, Delaney falsely labeled approximately $8,000 worth of frozen fillets of pollock, product of China, as cod loins, product of Canada. The labeling of pollock as cod is identified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the list of examples of substituted seafood and economic fraud on its website. Evidence at trial established that the price of cod is approximately $1.00 per pound higher than that for Alaska pollock.
In addition, Delaney was convicted on one misdemeanor violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for misbranding seafood. Specifically, the jury found that Delaney sent into interstate commerce approximately $203,000 worth of frozen fish fillets, that were falsely and misleadingly labeled as products of Canada, Holland, Namibia and the United States, when they were actually a product of China.
Delaney was acquitted on several additional charges.
According to evidence presented during the week-long trial, Delaney, the president of South Shore Fisheries, would take frozen fish fillets out of cold storage and rebox and re-label the fish for various seafood dealers. At the direction of the dealers, Delaney would take the frozen fish from one box, place it into a new box and place a new label on the box. This enabled him to, through a change of label, change the species and/or country of origin of the fillets.
Documents admitted at trial showed that Delaney changed approximately $203,000 worth of mostly sole fillets from China into mostly flounder fillets from Canada, the United States and other countries. In one instance the records showed that Delaney took fillets from boxes labeled as product of China and changed it into product of Holland and Canada while leaving some as product of China. Another record showed such product also changing from a 4 oz. label to a 5 oz. label.
This prosecution is one of a number over the past few years targeting fraud in the seafood industry.
Delaney faces a statutory maximum of five years in jail and fines of up to $250,000 for his conviction on the felony false labeling charge. He also faces a statutory maximum of one year in jail and fines of up to $100,000 for his conviction on the misdemeanor misbranding charge. Sentencing is scheduled for June 8, 2011.
The case was investigated by Special Agents of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. Trial Attorney Jessica Alloway and Assistant Chief Elinor Colbourn of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division prosecuted the case.