On January 12, 2011, the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida issued a press release announcing that a Florida company had pled guilty to criminal charges related to the mislabeling of salmon and shrimp for resale in the U.S. market.

According to court filings accompanying the guilty plea, Shifco, Inc. worked with an unnamed importer (“Company A”) to fraudulently mislabel shrimp for sale in the U.S. market.  The “factual proffer” agreed to by the defendant reported that between January 2007 and August 2009, “Company A” imported nearly one million pounds of shrimp from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.   Once the shrimp arrived in the United States, “Company A” sent the shrimp in batches to Shifco and, upon instruction from employees of “Company A,” Shifco’s employees repackaged and re-labeled the shrimp as “Shrimp, Product of Panama,” “Shrimp, Product of Ecuador,” and “Shrimp, Product of Honduras.”

The prosecution and guilty plea reflect the diligent efforts of NOAA Law Enforcement to investigate and expose fraudulent practices in the shrimp industry and the U.S. Attorney’s determination to clearly communicate that such fraud has consequences.  The Southern Shrimp Alliance is grateful for these efforts and for everything that these government entities are doing to address practices that have become far too widespread within the shrimp market.

The details relating to the shrimp mislabeling scheme engaged in by Shifco, at the behest of another unnamed company, imply a prevalent scheme used to defraud American consumers by concealing the true source of shrimp sold in the marketplace.   The Southern Shrimp Alliance anticipates that this case may be the proverbial tip of the iceberg and hopes that this guilty plea, along with future indictments and convictions, sends a clear and strong signal to the industry that fraud will not be tolerated.

If you are aware of similar schemes or efforts to defraud consumers by falsely labeling shrimp products, we encourage you to contact NOAA Law Enforcement with as much specific, detailed information as possible.