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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 18, 2019

Canadian seafood wholesaler, and owner, plead guilty to illegally importing fish into U.S

Fish had been refused entry due to spoilage, then was relabeled and imported into Western Washington

Seattle – Seven Seas Fish Company, Ltd of Richmond, BC Canada, and a company owner JOHN HERAS, 78, of Delta, B.C, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to importation of previously refused food.  The company and HERAS admit that between October 2014 and August 2015, they imported more than 9,000 pounds of potentially adulterated fish into the U.S.  The fish had previously been refused entry into the U.S., because the FDA judged samples of the fish too decomposed and putrid.  Seven Seas has agreed to pay a $150,000 fine.  HERAS could face to up to a year in prison when sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler on February 7, 2020.

According to records filed in the case, in June 2014, Seven Seas purchased 12,100 pounds of frozen corvina, a white fish similar to sea bass.  The fish was purchased for $36,375 from a seafood company in Mexico.  Seven Seas attempted to have the fish imported into the U.S. at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.  However, when Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Consumer Safety Officers examined the fish, they determined that one third of the samples from the shipment were more than 20 percent spoiled.  The shipment was refused entry to the U.S. However, Seven Seas arranged for the fish to be lawfully shipped through the U.S. to its plant in Richmond, BC, claiming that the product would be distributed in Canada.

After the fish arrived in B.C., HERAS cooked and ate some of the fish and claimed he found nothing wrong with it.  Despite his knowledge that the fish had been refused entry to the U.S., HERAS encouraged others within Seven Seas to sell the fish to customers in Washington State and elsewhere.  Some 9,020 pounds of the fish was imported into the U.S. without the required notice to the Secretary of Health and Human services.

The FDA has not found any illness linked to those who consumed the fish.

Importation of previously refused food is punishable by up to a year in prison.  Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a probationary sentence for HERAS, but the ultimate sentence will be determined by Magistrate Judge Theiler based on the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigation, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Diggs.

Topic(s): 
Consumer Protection
Contact: 
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.
Updated October 18, 2019