Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Seafood processor pleads guilty to misselling foreign crabmeat as USA product


The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina says a man plead guilty Thursday on charges that his company, Garland F. Fulcher Seafood Company Inc. in Oriental, at his direction, falsely labeled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of foreign crabmeat as “Product of USA.”

Prosecutors say Jeffrey A. Styron was the treasurer of the corporate board of officers for Garland Fulcher.

As treasurer, Styron was responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the company’s crab-related business, which involved managing and directing employees of the company with respect to the processing, packaging, and labeling of crab meat.

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Styron pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with substituting foreign crabmeat for domestic blue crab and, as part of the plea, Styron admitted to falsely labeling crabmeat with a retail market value of at least $250,000 dollars, which was sold primarily to small seafood retailers and restaurants.

As part of his guilty plea, Styron 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, Styron 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, Styron and Garland Fulcher purchased crabmeat, not live crabs, from South America and Asia.

Prosecutors also say Styron further admitted that beginning at least as early as Jan. 1, 2014, and continuing through Dec. 31, 2017, he directed company employees to repack foreign crabmeat into containers labeled “Product of USA,” which Garland Fulcher then sold to customers as “backfin,” “claw,” “lump,” “jumbo lump,” or “special,” domestically-harvested blue crab meat.

Styron is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 7.

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