Capt. Neill’s Seafood charged with mislabeling crab meat
Published 5:59 pm Friday, July 5, 2019
Capt. Neill’s Seafood of Columbia and its owner, Phillip Carawan, on June 26 were charged in U.S. District Court with repackaging and falsely labeling approximately 200,536 pounds of imported crab meat as product of the United States during 2012-2015.
The federal court document alleges that the crab meat was “intended for sale and transportation in interstate commerce to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Capt. Neill’s Seafood intentionally mislabeled as “Product of the USA” more than $4 million worth of crab meat, when it was actually purchased from Asia and South America, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges.
Capt. Neill’s “was unable to satisfy customer demand for domestically harvested blue crab; nor did Capt. Neill’s have frozen domestically harvested blue crab to satisfy customer demand,” at certain times From January 2012 through June 2015, the complaint states.
After Capt. Neill’s purchased crab meat from South America and Asia, “Carawan then directed Capt. Neill’s employees to repack foreign crab meat into containers labeled ‘Product of USA’, which Capt. Neill’s then sold to customers as jumbo domestically harvested blue crab,” the DOJ states.
Over $4 million of the mislabeled crab meat was sold to grocery stores, wholesale clubs and other retailers in the United States between 2012 and June 2015, according to the government’s charges.
All five extensions of Capt. Neill’s local telephone number were unresponsive on July 5 and the company’s website had been taken down.
At least two trade news sources have posted internet reports of the court filing.
The U.S. Attorney charges that Capt. Neill’s Seafood Inc. and Carawan violated three federal laws: Lacey Act Amendments, Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, and Tariff Act.
The court document states that in 2012-15 the company “was a North Carolina corporation in the business of purchasing, processing, packaging, transporting, and selling, seafood and seafood products, including crab meat from domestically harvested Atlantic blue crab . . . and products made from Atlantic blue crab. The Company marketed itself as a ‘North Carolina based company producing fresh domestic crabmeat for almost 30 years.'”
As part of its business, Capt. Neill’s purchased live domestic blue crab and employed workers to steam, pick, and process the meat from the domestic blue crab, the U.S. Attorney charges. If supply of picked crab meat exceeded customer demand, the Company froze and stored picked crab meat at an off-site facility, and sold that crab meat when customer demand exceeded the supply of domestic blue crab available to Capt. Neill’s, the government charge continues.
Capt. Neill’s also purchased crab meat from species other than blue crab, including crab indigenous to, and exported from, South America and Asia, the court document states.
Capt. Neill’s sold crab meat to wholesale member stores, grocery store chains, and retail establishments, according to the DOJ.
Carawan was owner and operator of Capt. Neill’s and managed and directed employees of the company with respect to the processing, packaging, and labeling of crab meat, the U.S. Attorney states.
The Government charges that “For periods of time, beginning on an unknown date, but at least as early as January 1, 2012, and continuing through June 16, 2015, CAPT. NEILL’S was unable to satisfy customer demand for domestically harvested blue crab; nor did CAPT. NEILL’S have frozen domestically harvested blue crab to satisfy customer demand. CARAWAN caused CAPT. NEILL’S to purchase foreign crab meat from South America and Asia. CARAWAN then directed CAPT. NEILL’S employees to repack foreign crab meat into containers labeled ‘Product of USA,’ which CAPT. NEILL’S then sold to customers as jumbo domestically harvested blue crab. CARAWAN knew that the crab meat CAPT. NEILL’S sold during that time period was labeled and represented as domestically harvested crab meat when, in truth and in fact, it was or contained foreign crab meat. CARAWAN and CAPT. NEILL’S did not inform their customers of the meat’s true origin.”
The five-page court filing document may be accessed at www.justice.gov/file/1178071/download.