NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – James R. Casey, owner and president of Casey’s Seafood in Newport News, pleaded guilty in federal court after falsely labeling foreign blue crab as “Product of USA” and was sentenced to more than three years in prison.
Casey’s Seafood Inc. is a wholesale processor of crab meat and other seafood. Casey pleaded guilty to working with others to substitute foreign crab meat for Atlantic blue crab.
Casey admitted to falsely labeling over 183 tons of crab meat, which was sold to grocery stores and independent retailers.
According to the Department of Justice, “Mr. Casey conspired to replace Atlantic Blue Crab with crab meat from Indonesia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Central and South America. Casey falsely labeled nearly 400,000 pounds of crab meat with a retail value in the millions of dollars. This fraud causes real financial harm to economies here in the region, and threatens to tarnish the good name of the waterman who have worked these waters for generations. We are committed to working with our federal and state partners to ensure compliance with the Lacey Act, and to enforce our nation’s environmental laws that are in place to protect consumers from similar fraud schemes.”
Casey admitted that beginning in early 2010 and continuing through June 2015, he directed his employees to unpack foreign crab meat from their suppliers, combine it with domestic blue crab and other types of crab, then re-pack that meat into Casey’s Seafood containers which were labeled “Product of USA.” Casey also admitted that they would purchase discounted foreign crab meat that was considered distressed due to the “best used by” dates and directed his employees to re-condition the distressed crab meat then packaging it into Casey’s Seafood containers.
“Blue crabs are a classic American seafood product and a vital resource for coastal communities in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and other parts of the United States. As a nation, we invest tremendously in the management of Atlantic blue crab populations and other marine resources, and those efforts – along with the jobs of American seafood workers – are placed at risk by frauds like the one exposed in this case. The Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will continue to take action to enforce the law and to protect the economic competitiveness of American products and the safety of American consumers,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood.
Casey was sentenced Wednesday to 45 months in prison, or three years and nine months. The maximum sentence for conspiracy to falsely label crab meat is five years in prison and a fine of up to half the gross gain of the offense.