Wash. Vendor Pleads Guilty for Mislabeling Turbot

A Bellevue, Wash.-based seafood vendor charged with selling thousands of pounds of mislabeled fish has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported late last week.

Kevin D. Steele, president and owner of Mallard Cove Resources, imported 136,000 pounds of Greenland turbot from China and passed it off as the costlier halibut to restaurateurs and retailers over a three-year period. The sale of the turbot brought in about $500,000 more than the fish would have fetched if properly labeled, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Oesterle.

Steele pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the trade of wildlife, fish and plants that were illegally harvested, possessed, transported or sold. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of selling mislabeled food, which brings a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

The plea agreement also calls for Steele to make a community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation equal to the amount he profited by selling the turbot and to take out ads in seafood industry publications apologizing for his crime.


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