A Texas shrimping company pleaded guilty Thursday to relabeling 35,000 pounds of hard-to-sell Mexican shrimp as wild-caught American crustaceans.
Garcia Shrimp Co. admitted to a violation of the century-old federal Lacey Act.
According to the “factual basis” underpinning the company’s guilty plea, Garcia bought the 17-ton frozen bounty from two Mexican businessmen who had struggled to unload it in a market that craves U.S. shrimp.
Garcia kept the shrimp in the same plastic crates but got rid of labels reading “Pollo Supermercado” and other messages in Spanish. It shipped the crates to Brownsville, Texas, and slapped new tags on them, indicating the shrimp had been caught by a Texas shrimp boat, the Regio.
Then the company created false bills of lading and sold the shrimp to a New Orleans-based distributor, according to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office.
Polite gave credit to the law enforcement arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for peeling away the ruse. The agency ultimately seized and auctioned off the shrimp for $121,000 to a buyer in Illinois.
According to Polite’s office, the maximum penalty for violating the Lacey Act is a $500,000 fine and an “organizational probationary term” of five years.
U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown is to sentence the company Sept. 24.