A Tangipahoa Parish seafood processing company pleaded guilty in federal court today to passing off Mexican shrimp as caught in the United States.
As part of a plea deal, Randy Pearce of Doran Seafood admitted in court that his company mislabeling more than $100,000 of foreign shrimp as domestic in violation of the Lacey Act.
The plea bargain calls for Doran to pay a fine of $12,500. The guilty plea comes on the heels of a similar plea Tuesday by Doran’s co-defendant, Worldwide Shrimp Company of Highland Park, Ill. Worldwide agreed to pay a fine of $50,000.
The companies faced maximum fines of $500,000 each.
Representatives of both companies admitted that between November 2007 and December 2008, Worldwide sent Mexican-caught shrimp to Doran’s processing plant in Independence and instructed the Louisiana company to label the shrimp as “Caught in the U.S.A.”
Randy Pearce is the son of Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Marketing and Promotion Board. Randy Pearce became highly visible in his own right after the BP oil spill, making numerous media appearances to talk about the damage to the state’s seafood industry.
After Pearce pleaded guilty on behalf of Doran on Thursday, his sister Deborah Pearce said the company is eager to put the case behind it and cooperated with federal authorities as soon as red flags were raised.
"The company acknowledges that mistakes were made about five years ago,” Deborah Pearce said. “The company has done everything in its power to correct those mistakes, including third party inspections.”
Terms of probation for the two companies will be set in September by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo.