A Mississippi shrimp company owner last week admitted to making fraudulent claims for tariff money intended to help struggling shrimp producers hit hard by foreign competition.
Earl H. Fayard jr., owner of Ocean Springs Seafood Market, Wednesday pleaded guilty to one felony count of making false or fraudulent claims against a federal agency.
Fayard admitted about $451,000 of the nearly $8.5 million in expenditures he filed for under the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, commonly called the Byrd Amendment, between Jan. 1, 2006, and June 7, 2007, were "false, fictitious and/or fraudulent," court documents state.
Individual shrimpers and shrimp processors were eligible to apply for reimbursement under the amendment, which allowed tariffs placed on imported products to go directly to affected domestic industries. The amendment was repealed in 2007, but payments are still being made to shrimp producers who claimed financial hardships caused by imported shrimp dumped on the U.S. market by foreign countries between 2005 and 2007.
Fayard received a total of $659,252 in Byrd money from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
According to court documents, Fayard generated false notes for loans that were never issued and drew up invoices for purchases he never made as well as environmental services he never paid for. He also created documentation stating fictitious shrimp products were below standards, which required an immediate refund from a sales transaction that never occurred.
In May of 2007, Fayard submitted an amended claim to the government that left off most of the false or fictitious expenses previously claimed.
He later paid back about $32,550 of the payments he received based on the fake expenses, but still owes the government more than $4,100.
Fayard faces a maximum of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years supervised release.