Justice Department Cracks Down On Fish Fraud
Mislabeled Shrimp Case Ends in Felony Conviction
August 21, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – A North Carolina seafood processor and wholesale distributor faces a felony conviction, a $100,000 fine, forfeiture of more than 20,000 pounds of shrimp and three years’ probation after Federal prosecutors exposed the company’s shrimp mislabeling scheme.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina joined forces to investigate and prosecute Alphin Brothers Inc., in a case that saw the company admit to falsely labeling tens of thousands of pounds of shrimp.
“This case is an example of coordinated law enforcement, both state and federal, working together with the tools they already have to crack down on fish fraud,” said Lisa Weddig, Secretary of the Better Seafood Board (BSB.)
U.S. Attorneys used the Lacey Act as the center piece of their prosecution. Federal law makes it illegal to “make or submit any false record, account, or label for, or any false identification of, any fish or wildlife that has been or is intended to be imported, transported, purchased or received from any foreign country, or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.”
“The key to stamping out fish fraud is just what we see in this case,” said Weddig. “Officials didn’t need new laws or new rules and regulations to go after and ultimately convict this operation. They used the Lacey Act and exceptional coordination to crack down on clear fraud.”
Lacey Act violations can result in five years in prison and half a million in fines for companies and $250,000 in fines for individual defendants.
“A felony conviction, fines and forfeitures illustrate how significant this crime is and how seriously the Feds take it,” said Weddig.
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.