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Seafood processor pleads guilty to selling foreign crabmeat falsely labeled as blue crab from U.S.

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Christian Fernsby |
Capt. Neill’s Seafood
America   Capt. Neill’s Seafood

Phillip R. Carawan of Columbia, North Carolina, pleaded guilty 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.”

Topics: U.S. crab label seafood

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.


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