The owner of a former Bellingham fish processing plant was sentenced to a year in prison Friday, April 1, and must pay $347,202 for selling coho salmon labeled as chinook.
Douglas Jay, a Ferndale resident and Canadian citizen, had directed workers at his D Jay Enterprises Inc. plant to label less valuable coho as chinook. Between May 2005 and mid-2007, Jay filled at least 125 orders this way, putting more than 160,000 pounds of falsely labeled fish into the market, federal prosecutors said.
In September Jay, 50, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to violating the Lacey Act for the false labeling.
Prosecutors said Jay gained a substantial profit - the market value of the falsely labeled fish was esimtated at $1.3 million -from the scheme to defraud customers, and that his "conscious and calculated" actions gained him a sizable market share and competitive advantage over other honest processors. They also said the false labeling undermined consumer confidence, according to information from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
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Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration, which investigated the case, praised the sentence Jay was given by U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman for his scheme.
"The National Marine Fisheries Service (which is part of NOAA) is very concerned with the integrity and quality of U.S. seafood, and we hope this sentence demonstrates the seriousness with which we view false labeling," said Sherrie Tinsley Myers, special agent in charge of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Alaska division.
The money Jay must pay, an amount equal to what's believed he made from the false labeling, will go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation for programs to protect and restore fishery resources and the habitats on which they depend.
Jay now operates a different fish processing business, Premiere Packing LLC of Lynden, according the the U.S. Attorney's Office.