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Seafood Processor Pleads Guilty to Selling Foreign Crabmeat Falsely Labeled as Blue Crab from the U.S.


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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Seafood Processor Pleads Guilty to Selling Foreign Crabmeat Falsely Labeled as Blue Crab from the U.S.

Phillip R. Carawan of Columbia, North Carolina, pleaded guilty today in federal court in New Bern, North Carolina, on charges that his company, Capt. Neill’s Seafood Inc., at Carawan’s direction, falsely labeled millions of dollars’ worth of foreign crabmeat as “Product of USA.”

“Today’s plea helps to ensure that American fishermen and consumers are not defrauded,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “We are proud to partner with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and NOAA in bringing this case.”

“Seafood mislabeling is consumer fraud that undermines efforts of hardworking, honest fisherman and the free market by devaluing the price of domestic seafood,” said Acting U.S. Attorney G. Norman Acker III for the Eastern District of North Carolina.  “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.”

“Seafood fraud and mislabeling can affect the economic value of our domestic fisheries,” said Logan Gregory, Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office (NOAA) of Law Enforcement.  “Our office is committed to investigating these crimes to help ensure the economic value and sustainability of our fisheries.”

According to information in the public record, Carawan was the owner, President and Chief Executive Officer of Capt. Neill’s Seafood Inc., a North Carolina company engaged in the business of purchasing, processing, packaging, transporting and selling seafood and seafood products, including crabmeat from domestically harvested blue crab.  Carawan pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him and Capt. Neill’s with substituting foreign crabmeat for domestic blue crab and, as part of the plea, Carawan admitted to falsely labeling more than 179,872 pounds of crabmeat with a retail market value of $4,082,841.  The falsely labeled crabmeat was then sold primarily to wholesale membership clubs, but also to other retailers.  Charges have also been filed against Capt. Neill’s and a hearing is set for Sept. 11, 2019.

As part of his guilty plea, Carawan admitted that he and his company could not and did not process sufficient quantities of domestic blue crab to meet customer demands.  To make up the shortfall, Carawan and his company used foreign crabmeat to fulfill customer orders.  During the periods when the company did not have a sufficient supply of domestic crab, Carawan and Capt. Neill’s purchased crabmeat (not live crabs) from South America and Asia.

As part of the guilty plea, Carawan further admitted that beginning at least as early as 2012, and continuing through June 16, 2015, he directed company employees to repack foreign crabmeat into containers labeled “Product of USA,” which Capt. Neill’s then sold to customers as jumbo domestically harvested blue crab.

As part of the plea agreements entered into by Carawan and Capt. Neill’s, restitution will be made to persons whom the government confirmed purchased Capt. Neill’s jumbo crabmeat between 2012 and June 16, 2015.  For individuals who wish to see whether they qualify for restitution and for further information on the prosecution, please visit the following site: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ednc/captneillsseafoodvictiminformationpage orhttp://justice.gov/largecases.

This case was part of an ongoing effort by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the false labeling of crabmeat.

The plea took place before U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan in New Bern. Sentencing will take place in January 2020.  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, which in this case, is $8,165,682.00

This prosecution is being handled by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.  The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Banumathi Rangarajan and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner.




Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 25, 2019

Three Southwest Kansas Men Sentenced to Prison for Plotting to Bomb Somali Immigrants in Garden City

Three men from southwest Kansas were sentenced to 25, 26 and 30 years imprisonment on charges of conspiring to detonate a bomb at an apartment complex in Garden City where Muslim immigrants lived, announced Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker; United States Attorney for the District of Kansas Stephen McAllister; FBI Director Chris Wray; Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband; Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John C. Demers; and FBI Kansas City Division Special Agent in Charge Darrin E. Jones.

“The Department of Justice works every day to thwart terrorist threats to the United States," said Acting Attorney General Whitaker. "The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill innocent people on the basis of their religion and national origin. That's not just illegal—it's morally repugnant.  Today's sentence is a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism, and I want to thank everyone who helped bring the defendants to justice—the dedicated professionals with the FBI, the United States Attorney's Office in Kansas, the Civil Rights Division, the National Security Division, and our state and local law enforcement partners.  Law enforcement saved lives in this case."

“These defendants planned to ruthlessly bomb an apartment complex and kill innocent people, simply because of who they are and how they worship," said FBI Director Wray. “Today, together with our law enforcement partners, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting all people in our communities from those who seek to terrorize and do harm." 

“Some people have described this prosecution as a civil rights case, a domestic terrorism case or even a violent crime case,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister of the District of Kansas. “However you look at it, it is a violation of everything we stand for in America, equal rights, public safety and respect for law.”

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“Today's sentencing speaks to the FBI's commitment to protect the communities we serve and our continued obligation to disrupt plots where the intent is to commit violence and harm others,” said Darrin Jones, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Kansas City Division. “This sentencing highlights the gravity of these crimes, and that actions motivated by hatred will not be tolerated. The FBI, with our law enforcement partners will continue to work aggressively to ensure those responsible are brought to justice."

On April 18, 2018 after a five-week trial, a federal jury convicted Patrick Eugene Stein, 49, of Wright, Kansas, Curtis Allen, 51, of Liberal, Kansas, and Gavin Wright, 53, of Beaver County, Oklahoma, on one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy to violate the housing rights of their intended victims. Both conspiracies stemmed from the defendants’ plot to blow up the apartment complex in an effort to kill the Somali Muslim immigrants who lived there. The jury also convicted defendant Wright of lying to the FBI in matter involving domestic terrorism.

Evidence presented at trial revealed that the defendants plotted, over the course of several months, to attack an apartment complex that contained a mosque in Garden City, Kansas, where Muslim immigrants from Somalia lived and worshipped. Evidence during trial established that the defendants held numerous meetings to plan the attack and took significant steps – including making and testing explosives – toward implementing their plan.  During an eight-month-long FBI investigation, a confidential source, whom the government credited for thwarting the attack and saving the lives of innocent victims, recorded numerous conversations during which the defendants discussed and refined their plan. As the plan solidified, the defendants discussed obtaining four vehicles, filling them with explosives, and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex to create an explosion that would be sure to level the building and kill its occupants.

During the course of the investigation, defendant Stein also met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a black market arms dealer, in an effort to obtain a bomb. During one of the meetings, Stein drove with the agent to see the apartment building that the defendants were planning to destroy.



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Curtis Allen was sentenced to 25 years. Gavin Wright was sentenced to 26 years. Patrick Stein was sentenced to 30 years. 

Whitaker, McAllister, Wray, Dreiband, Demers, and Jones commended the following law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for their exceptional and exemplary efforts investigating and prosecuting this important case: the FBI, the Liberal Police Department, the Seward County Sheriff’s Office, the Ford County Sheriff’s Office, the Garden City Police Department, the Dodge City Police Department, the Finney County Sheriff’s Office, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and National Security Division.

The case was tried by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi and Trial Attorneys Risa Berkower and Mary J. Hahn of the Civil Rights Division and supported by Trial Attorney David Cora of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Appellate Attorney Danielle Tarin of the Office of Law and Policy.












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