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Press Release

Owner Of Addison Seafood Company Sentenced And Fined $100,000 In Federal Court For Mislabeling Frozen Fish And Shrimp

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

CHICAGO — The owner of an Addison seafood distributor received a maximum $100,000 fine and was sentenced to five years’ federal probation, with the first six months in home confinement, for mislabeling certain products by substituting cheaper fish for more expensive fish and misstating the weight of shrimp to charge customers more for a lesser quantity. The defendant, PATRICK A. BRUNO, president and owner of Gourmet Express Marketing, Inc., was sentenced after he pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Bruno, 71, of Addison, must pay the costs of electronic monitoring during home confinement. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan, who imposed the sentence yesterday in Federal Court in Chicago, also ordered Bruno to obey the terms of a civil consent decree as a condition of his probation. That decree, which Bruno and Gourmet Express entered in April and settled a parallel civil lawsuit filed by the government, permanently enjoins any future violations. Bruno admitted that he mislabeled and sold swai as “catfish,” and perch as “red snapper” or “pacific snapper,” and also misstated the weight of ice-glazed shrimp.

The mislabeling has not resulted in any known illnesses or danger to public health, officials said.

In pleading guilty in the criminal case, Bruno admitted that between 2007 and 2010, he knew that seafood he sold was mislabeled and that the packages of frozen shrimp overstated the weight of that ice-glazed product. The civil consent decree, which lasts at least five years, enjoins him and his company from committing any future violations, requires the hiring of an independent expert at the company’s expense to ensure compliance with the agreement and federal laws, and provides for civil damages of $5,000 a day and $10,000 for each shipment in the event violations occur.

The sentence was announced today by Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Scott MacIntire, district director of the FDA’s Chicago District Office, and John Redmond, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

According to court documents, Gourmet Express purchases, processes and repacks frozen seafood and sells its products to retailers and wholesalers in Illinois and other states. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Bruno and Gourmet Express in February 2010 after inspections in 2009 found that they misrepresented the weight of frozen shrimp after adding an ice glaze to the products, and mislabeled perch as “red snapper,” or “pacific snapper.” A subsequent inspection in March and April 2010 documented continuing and additional violations.

The FDA tested samples of Bruno and Gourmet Express’s frozen cooked shrimp during some inspections in 2009 and 2010 to evaluate the net weight stated on the product labels. The tests revealed that the actual weight of the products was at various times, respectively, 21.5 and 14.4 percent under the labeled weight. The FDA conducted DNA testing to determine the true species of the fish.

The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kaarina Salovaara and Donald Lorenzen.

Updated July 23, 2015