Written by Tyler R. Etter
On August 11, 2015, Alphin Brothers Inc., a North Carolina seafood processor, was sentenced in federal court for falsely labeling imported shrimp. The sentencing follows a plea agreement made on February 10, 2015, where Alphin Brothers plead guilty to one count of making or submitting false records, a violation of the Lacey Act.
According to court documents, the company directed employees and another processing facility to label approximately 25,000 pounds of farm-raised, imported shrimp as a wild-caught “product of the United States.” The mislabeling is against the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations of the United States. The Lacey Act makes it illegal to “make or submit any false record, account, or label for...any fish or wildlife...intended to be imported, transported, purchased or received from any foreign country, or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.”
The company will have to pay a criminal fine of $100,000, as well as forfeit 21,450 pounds of shrimp. Further, the company will serve three years of probation, and be required to implement a training program to educate employees on federal labeling requirements.
Lisa Weddig, Secretary of the Better Seafood Bureau (BSB), commented on the case, stating “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.” Weddig emphasized the use of the pre-existing Lacey Act and coordination to show that enforcement and punishing these crimes do not require new laws or regulations.