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Contraband
03/28/2011

2 companies sentenced for conspiracy to mislabel food

MIAMI - Mark Platt, 52, of Boca Raton, Fla.; Shifco, Inc., of Hialeah, Fla.; and Northern Fisheries, Ltd., of Rhode Island, were sentenced Friday based on their earlier pleas to conspiring to mislabel seafood, in violation of the Lacey Act.

The sentences follow an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Platt was sentenced to three years' probation, six months in home confinement with electronic monitoring, and restrictions on working in the food and seafood industries. Further, Platt was required to complete 100 hours of community service, including writing an article describing his conduct in the case and assisting in teaching the seafood industry about regulations and requirements. Northern Fisheries was sentenced to two years in probation, a $3,500 fine and $400 special assessment. Shifco was sentenced to one year probation on each count of conviction, to run concurrently, and a $1,600 special assessment.

From January through February 2010, Platt, Shifco and Northern Fisheries engaged in a scheme through which Platt oversaw the false repackaging and labeling of 1,500 pounds of frozen chum Salmon fillets. The fillets, which were product of China, were re-labeled as being chum Salmon fillets of Russia. In addition, Platt and Shifco pleaded guilty to a scheme to re-label more than a million pounds of less marketable shrimp from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, as being from Panama, Ecuador, and Honduras. The shrimp had an estimated retail value of between $250,000 and $1,000,000.

The mislabeling of foods such as fish and shrimp is prohibited by the Lacey Act and the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The Lacey Act, in pertinent part, makes it unlawful for a person to falsely identify any fish which has been, or is intended to be, imported, sold, purchased, or received from any foreign country or transported in interstate or foreign commerce. The FDCA, in pertinent part, prohibits the alteration or removal of the whole or any part of the labeling of food, if such act is done while such article is held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce.