NOAA 2007-R101
Contact: Mark Oswell
NOAA News Releases 2007
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The U.S. District Court in Panama City, Fla., has sentenced Danny Nguyen to federal prison, and has issued criminal fines to Panhandle Seafood, Inc., and Panhandle Trading, Inc., for a multi-year scheme that involved smuggling and distributing mislabeled catfish into the U.S. and Canada from Vietnam.

The 42-count criminal indictment charged that from 2002 to 2005, Nguyen and his two companies – PSI and PTI – conspired with Vietnamese fish exporters to intentionally mislabel hundreds of thousands of pounds of Vietnamese catfish. Nguyen was charged with importing the fish into the U.S. labeled as grouper and other fish to avoid U.S. anti-dumping duties imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Nguyen and his companies were also charged with laundering the illegal proceeds obtained through the scheme.

After Nguyen and his two companies pled guilty, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Smoak handed down the sentences. Nguyen received a sentence of 51 months imprisonment and three years supervised release. Panhandle Seafood Inc. received five years probation and forfeited both the real property of the business and a business vehicle. Panhandle Trading Inc. was ordered to pay restitution of $1.13 million and also received five years probation.

NOAA Fisheries Services Office of Law Enforcement Special Agent Mark Kinsey initiated the investigation into Nguyen’s conduct in December 2004, after receiving an anonymous tip, the results of which led to the criminal indictments against Nguyen, PSI and PTI. As detailed in the indictments, the charges alleged that Nguyen avoided paying import duties by having the fish mislabeled in Vietnam. Additionally, Nguyen was charged with fraudulently changing the names of the correctly labeled fish in his own Florida warehouse and distributing it as U.S. domestic grouper. to avoid paying tariffs.

“Substitution in the seafood industry is an unfortunate, but prevalent occurrence, often at the expense of the resource and the consumer,” said Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Paul Raymond. “This case and others like it will help clarify that NOAA will aggressively pursue these violators.”

The Office for Law Enforcement will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies and the fishing industry to gain compliance with fishing regulation, provide for the legal trade in seafood and ensure sustainable fisheries. To report illegal fishing activities contact the NOAA Fisheries Service’s Enforcement Hot Line: (800) 853-1964.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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Note to Reporters: NOAA enforcement press releases are distributed for informational purposes only and do not have the force and effect of law.