A Florida City fish wholesaler pleaded guilty in federal court this week to mislabeling lobster it bought from Haiti when it exported the product to China.
The company, Aifa Seafood Inc., based in Florida City, faces a sentence of five years probation and a fine up to $500,000. A judge could sentence its president, 57-year-old Jiu Fa Chen, of Parkland, to up to five years in federal prison and order him to pay a fine of up to $250,000 during his scheduled May 23 hearing in Miami.
According to an Oct. 5, 2022, grand jury indictment, from May 16, 2019 to Aug. 3, 2019, the company bought about 5,900 pounds of lobster from a company in Port Au Prince, Haiti, and turned around and exported it to customers in China with the label, “Florida Spiny Lobster, Product of the USA.”
The shipments from Haiti came in to Miami International Airport, according to the indictment. The lobsters were then placed in a holding tank in Florida City before being shipped to China, the grand jury said.
Chen’s attorney did not immediately respond for a request for comment on the case.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the case was worked by agents with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations, as well as officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Florida spiny lobster has become a delicacy in China, and seafood sellers in the U.S. often have trouble buying enough from local commercial fishermen to meet demand in Asia.
A federal judge fined a Marathon exporter $250,000 last month and placed the company on five years of probation for mislabeling lobster it bought from Nicaragua and Belize as Florida spiny lobster when it shipped the product to China between 2018 and 2019.