Judge imposes one of the longest sentences ever for false seafood labeling
May 20, 2009 Washington, DC – A Virginia man’s 63 month federal prison sentence, for his role in a conspiracy that fraudulently labeled and sold pangasius in the United States, is evidence that fish fraud is a serious crime and not just the cost of doing business.
“Some businesses are convinced they’re not being victimized by their suppliers. They say no, not me. But in this case we’re talking about 10 million pounds of fish. That’s a lot of not me’s,” said Lisa Weddig the Secretary of the Better Seafood Board.
The Justice Department’s prosecution centered on “importers and seafood dealers who worked together” to sell “frozen fillets that were falsely labeled as more desirable and more expensive fish.”
Prosecutors demonstrated that Peter Xuong Lam of Virginia Star was part of a scheme that imported more than $15 million worth of pangasius that was illegally labeled as, among other things, sole, grouper and flounder. DNA tests revealed the fraud.
“If you’re not dealing with a member of the BSB you have the potential to open your business up to the type of fraud we’ve seen in this case,” said Weddig. “While it’s disappointing to see this going on, it’s hearting to see law enforcement stepping up and doing something about it.”
The Justice Department says the case was investigated by Special Agents of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Better Seafood Board (BSB) was established by the National Fisheries Institute to provide a mechanism for industry’s partners in the supply chain – restaurants, retail operations, producers and processors - to report suppliers suspected of committing economic fraud.