Fishmongers mislabeled, sold illegal seafood
Two Arizona fishmongers pleaded guilty in federal court this week to illegally selling imported fish laced with banned antibiotics, improperly inflating the quality and size of fish and shrimp, and falsely claiming that foreign farm-raised shrimp was actually U.S. wild-caught shrimp, authorities said.
The fishmongers, who appeared in court in Alabama Monday, admitted to buying about 283,500 pounds of frozen fillets of sutchi, a type of farm-raised catfish from Vietnam, and selling it as U.S. wild-caught sole and grouper in order to avoid paying $145,625 in fees.
They also bought more than 25,000 pounds of Lake Victoria perch from Africa, then mislabeled and sold it as grouper.
Karen L. Blyth and David H.M. Phelps sold the seafood through the companies they co-owned, Consolidated Seafood Enterprises Inc., of Phoenix, and Reel Fish and Seafood, Inc., of Pensacola, Fla., officials said. The fish was sold in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
Some of the fish seized during the investigation contained the dye malachite green and the antibiotic Enrofloxin, which are both banned from U.S. food.
They pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count, two counts of receiving smuggled goods, one misbranding count and nine violations of the Lacey Act, which protects wildlife. A third defendant charged in the case, John J. Popa, of Lisbon, Conn., had previously pleaded guilty to similar offenses.
The three are awaiting sentencing. For each smuggling count, they face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; for each violation of the Lacey Act they face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and for each misbranding count they can be sentenced to up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
| January 25, 2011; 10:05 AM ET
Categories: Allison Klein, Around the Nation, Cons & Scams, From the Courthouse
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