NC seafood company owner pleads guilty to selling foreign crab meat as a ‘product of the USA’

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COLUMBIA, N.C. — The label may have said “Product of the USA,” but new charges filed in June say otherwise, according to the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The owner of North Carolina seafood company Capt. Neill’s Seafood of Columbia, Phillip Carawan, pleaded guilty Tuesday to selling close to 200,000 pounds of crab meat from Asia and South America while marketing it as Atlantic blue crab.

The U.S. attorney said the untrue label gave Carawan an advantage, raking in more than $4 million thanks to the mislabeled crab from 2012 to 2015.

The crab was chiefly sold to wholesale membership clubs, though other retailers were reportedly duped as well.

“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.”

A sentence is expected to come down in January.

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