Feds say Virginia businessman falsely labeled crab products

Published on
January 15, 2018

A Virginia businessman faces federal charges for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to sell fraudulent seafood products.

James R. Casey, owner and President of Casey’s Seafood, Inc., in Newport News, Virginia, is accused of violating the Lacey Act, which covers the trafficking of illegal fish and wildlife. According to a news release from Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for Virginia’s eastern district, he faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Prosecutors claim that during a three-year period starting in July 2012, the 74-year-old ordered his employees to mix foreign-caught crab meat with Atlantic blue crab meat and label it as an American product. The workers removed the foreign product from the original shipper’s packaging, combined it with another foreign crab product and then place those in different containers. 

In some instances, according to court documents, Casey’s staff covered up labels that indicated the products originated in Brazil or China. 

Casey and his co-conspirators, who were unnamed in the release, intentionally mislabeled nearly 400,000 pounds of products from countries in Asia and Latin America. Prosecutors claim the retail value of the products is worth in the millions of U.S. dollars.

Keith Loren Kimball, the federal public defender representing Casey, said in an email his client would not make a statement at this time.

Seafood fraud has been a growing concern in recent years. Conservation group Oceana conducted investigations between 2010 and 2015 and determined that about a third of the seafood it checked was mislabeled, often a lower-priced species.

Earlier this month, the U.S. began enforcing the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which is designed to prevent mislabeled fish from entering the market. Blue crab is among the priority species for the program, which requires importers to track the products from the time they are caught to the time the reach the country.

In an email, Oceana Senior Director Beth Lowell told SeafoodSource her organization was working to ensure all seafood sold in the U.S. is "safe, legally caught and honestly labeled."

"This type of bait and switch cheats consumers and undermines honest fishermen and seafood businesses that follow the rules," Lowell said.

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