atlantic blue crab

Seafood CEO and company charged with felony for selling foreign crabmeat labeled as Atlantic Blue Crab “Product of USA”

The owner of a Newport News seafood business was charged today by criminal information with conspiring to commit Lacey Act violations for blending foreign crab meat with Atlantic blue crab meat, then labeling the blended crab meat as “Product of USA”.

James R. Casey, 74, of Poquoson, is the owner and President of Casey’s Seafood, Inc. According to court documents, from at least July 2012 through June 2015, Casey knowingly conspired to replace Atlantic blue crab with crab meat from Indonesia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Central and South America. Casey and his co-conspirators falsely labeled at least 397,917 pounds of crab meat, with a retail value in the millions of dollars, as Atlantic blue crab and “Product of the United States”. According to court documents, Casey directed employees to remove foreign crabmeat from the original shipper’s packaging containers, blend and combine foreign crab meat from one processor with crab meat from another processor, and place it into different packing containers with a label declaring that the contents were a “Product of USA,” despite knowing that the contents were imported crab meat. Casey also directed employees to place labels with “Product of the USA” on containers that covered up labels that stated “Product of Brazil” or “Product of China”.

Casey has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, if convicted. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Jeffrey H. Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Tim Donovan, Assistant Director for National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Hurt and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Environmental Crimes Section are prosecuting the case.

This is just one case in a series of customs violations cases in which foreign seafoods, some of them banned, enter the United States as they are mislabeled as to the kind of seafood is contained and also as to the real country of origin.

In a similar case, the CEO if Sterling Seafood Corporation of New Jersey pleaded guilty to importing falsely labeled fish from Vietnam and evading over $60 million in federal tariffs as well as selling $500,000 in misbranded fish. He was charged with importing falsely labeled goods into the United States and for selling falsely labeled fish here with the intent to defraud. He admitted agreeing with the Vietnamese distribution company to have them label the Vietnamese catfish “Grouper” on commercial contracts, purchase orders and other documents as the grouper fish was not subject to any anti-dumping duties. Based on these statements, Sterling evaded over $60 million in anti-dumping tariffs.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers in cases using the False Claims Act (FCA). This law allows individuals or companies to reveal fraud on the U.S. government or fraud on states and to receive a reward of up to 30% of what the government recovers from the wrongdoers. This applies to customs fraud cases.