Torrance Seafood Company to Pay $1 Million in Fines

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Tue, Feb 7, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Erizo Cebicheria: Fish

Torrance-based Seafood Solutions Inc. was sentenced yesterday to pay $1 million in fines and community service payouts for falsely labeling frozen fish fillets. (You mean those Gorton's fish sticks weren't mahi mahi? We, for one, are shocked.)

In approximately June 2004, Seafood Solutions began to sell a fish it declared to customs as "ponga." The fish was actually Pangasius hypophthalmus, a species in the catfish family. It was misleadingly labeled as "Paradise Grouper" and "Falcon Baie Grouper."

Even after a wholesale distributor returned more than $400,000 worth of the product because one of its customers mistakenly believed the fish was grouper, Seafood Solutions continued to sell the mislabeled fish. Between February and April 2006, nearly $2 million worth of Pangasius fillets were knowingly sold as "Paradise Grouper" and "ponga."

Seafood Solutions was fined $700,000 and ordered to make a community service donation of $300,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The money will fund projects related to methodologies, databases and other research into the identification of marine organisms.

The corporation also was sentenced to three years' probation, ordered to forfeit all remaining inventory of falsely labeled fish and to develop and implement a corporate compliance plan.

Seafood Solutions was convicted in July 2011 of trafficking in fish in violation of the Lacey Act. Two co-defendants, Chau-Shing (Duke) Lin and Christopher Ragone, also pleaded guilty. Lin, 64, of Rancho Palos Verdes, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Lacey Act and one count of misbranding food. Ragone, 50, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty to two counts of misbranding food. Lin and Ragone are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 13.

Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page. Follow the author at @ElinaShatkin or contact her at eshatkin@laweekly.com.

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