Two Long Island, New York, corporations and their owners pleaded guilty today in federal court for their scheme to falsely-label seafood that they later sold across the country.
In a plea agreement with the government, Roy Tuccillo Sr, 59, and his son, Roy Tuccillo Jr, 32, both of Jericho, New York, and two of their Westbury, New York, food processing and distribution companies, Anchor Frozen Foods Inc, and Advanced Frozen Foods Inc, pleaded to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They admitted to importing giant squid from Peru, marketing it as octopus, and using e-mail and wire transactions to sell it to grocery stores in interstate commerce.
“Seafood fraud is illegal, undermines confidence in the market place, and can have serious consequences for fish, fishermen, the seafood industry and consumers,” said James Landon, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement. “NOAA’s enforcement priorities include uncovering and investigating incidents of seafood fraud, and we will seek to continue to bring to justice those who engage in this illegal activity.”
Octopus and squid are distinct species of fish with great variance in their taxonomy, habitat, and physical characteristics. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires food companies selling squid to market it by its name or as calamari, while octopus is the only acceptable name when selling octopus. In general, octopus has a greater retail price than squid.
From 2011 to 2014, the defendants imported, processed, marketed, sold, and distributed over 113,000 pounds of squid worth $1.1 million that they had falsely labeled as octopus. The defendants admitted to defrauding over ten grocery stores that in turn sold the product to consumers. The Lacey Act prohibits submitting false descriptions of fish that were transported and sold in interstate commerce.
The maximum sentence for Tuccillo Sr and Tuccillo Jr is five years imprisonment, three years of post-release supervision and a fine up to $250,000. The corporations may be placed on five years of probation and pay a fine up to $500,000. Any fine may be adjusted to twice the pecuniary loss or gain.
The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement investigated this case with assistance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Trial attorney Ryan Connors and senior trial attorney David Kehoe of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section are prosecuting the case.