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DOJ sinks claws into crabmeat mislabeling

Posted On: Aug. 14, 2019 12:02 PM CST


The owner of a seafood company in Columbia, North Carolina, pleaded guilty Tuesday after investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice found that he had mislabeled millions of dollars worth of foreign crabmeat as a “Product of the USA.”

Mislabeling seafood, of which Phillip Carawan’s Capt. Neill’s Seafood Inc. was accused, “is consumer fraud that undermines efforts of hardworking, honest fishermen and the free market by devaluing the price of domestic seafood,” Acting U.S. Attorney G. Norman Acker III for the Eastern District of North Carolina said in a statement released Tuesday. 

“In this case, the fraudulent scheme artificially deflated the cost of domestic blue crab and gave Carawan an unacceptable economic advantage over law-abiding competitors,” he said.

Mr. Carawan’s company, which purchases and processes domestically harvested seafood, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his substituting foreign crabmeat for domestic blue crab when he could not fill orders — bringing in crabmeat from South America and Asia to meet the demand.

As part of the plea, Mr. Carawan admitted to falsely labeling more than 179,872 pounds of crabmeat with a retail market value of $4 million. The maximum sentence for falsely labeling crabmeat is five years in prison and a fine of up to twice the gross gain of the offense, according to the statement.