Texas Company Sentenced for Mislabeling Mexican Shrimp as Caught in United States Waters
U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that GARCIA SHRIMP CO., LLC, a Texas Limited Liability Company headquartered in Brownsville, was sentenced today after previously pleading guilty to a one-count Bill of Information for violating the federal Lacey Act.
U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown, pursuant to a plea agreement with the Government, sentenced GARCIA SHRIMP to pay a criminal fine of $150,000. GARCIA SHRIMP also sentenced to a three year term of probation with conditions that subject the company to increased labeling, recordkeeping, and auditing requirements. The 35,000 pounds of shrimp previously seized was later sold in a forfeiture auction for $120,800.
According to court documents, in early October 2012, GARCIA SHRIMP purchased 35,000 pounds of Mexican shrimp from Mexican businessmen. The shrimp was packaged in plastic crates typically used by Mexican supermarket wholesalers. After taking receipt of the shrimp, company personnel removed “Product of Mexico” labels from the packages containing the shrimp and attached new tags indicating that the shrimp was caught in U.S. waters. Company personnel also conducted an offloading ruse, whereby the shrimp was trucked down to GARCIA SHRIMP’s dock facility and then re-weighed and wrapped to make it appear as if the shrimp was caught by a local U.S. flagged fishing vessel. Then company personnel created false documents and bills of lading that falsely read, “Product of U.S.A., Wild Caught Gulf Shrimp.” On or about October 12, 2012, GARCIA SHRIMP sold the shrimp to a New Orleans based seafood distributor.
U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the U.S Department of Commerce NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in investigating this matter. The case was prosecuted with the support of the Federal Interagency Seafood Fraud Task Force. Eastern District of Louisiana Assistant U. S. Attorney Spiro G. Latsis and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Christopher L. Hale with the Environmental Crimes Section in Washington D.C. were in charge of the prosecution.