The owner and president of Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A.-based seafood company Casey’s Seafood pleaded guilty to selling recalled foreign crabmeat as Chesapeake blue crab in a multimillion dollar scheme.
At a federal court hearing in Norfolk, Virginia, this week, Casey’s Seafood owner James R. Casey pleaded guilty to mislabeling around USD 4.3 million (EUR 3.7 million) worth of crabmeat.
Casey faces up to five years in prison for his crimes.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia accused Casey’s of mixing “distressed” (old or recalled, in some cases) crabmeat from Indonesia, Brazil, and other countries with Chesapeake blue crab. The crab was then labeled and sold as “Product of the USA”.
The scheme involved nearly 360,000 pounds of crabmeat and spanned from 2012 to 2015.
“There was a significant decline in blue crab harvests, making it increasingly more expensive to purchase live blue crab, and increasingly more difficult to make a profit from the labor-intensive process of picking blue crab,” prosecutors wrote in court documents, The Washington Post reported. “As a result, Casey and the company could not and did not process sufficient quantities of blue crab to meet its customers’ demands.”
“Bad actors must be held accountable,” Dustin Cranor, spokesperson for Oceana, told the newspaper. “This type of mislabeling cheats consumers, disguises imported and sometimes illegally caught crab as local and harms the livelihoods of local watermen and processors that are playing by the rules. When you intentionally mislabel foreign crab meat as American, it’s fraud, plain and simple.”