Archive for the ‘Agricultural Exports’ Category



ICE Nails Canadians for Exporting Cheese from United States

Posted by at 6:37 pm on October 30, 2012
Category: Agricultural ExportsCriminal PenaltiesICE

cheeseA reader sent me this press release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

One officer and a former officer with the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRP), and an associate are in custody in Canada Thursday following an investigation into a cheese smuggling scheme. …

The arrests were announced by James Spero, special agent in charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Buffalo, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the NRP. …

Scott Heron, 39, Casey Langelaan, 48, and Bernie Pollino, 44, all of whom reside in Fort Erie, Ontario, have been charged for smuggling goods, evasion of duties and other related charges under Canadian laws. …

The network involved the purchasing of cases of cheese and other food items in the United States and transporting them into Canada without declaring the items or paying duty. Once the products arrived in the country, they were sorted and prepared for distribution to a variety of restaurants in southern Ontario.

Who knew that it was ICE’s job to help Canada put U.S. cheese makers out of business with punitive tariffs on American cheese?

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Dead Chickens By Sea: A Hard Warming Story

Posted by at 5:30 pm on May 8, 2012
Category: Agricultural Exports

Gulf Coast Cold StorageUsually criminal export defendants are in the dock for exports of night vision, stun guns, or high-tech chemical processing equipment. Today we have criminal defendants who were indicted for exporting insufficiently chilled chickens from Pascagoula, Mississippi to Russia, proving, I suppose, that even exporting chickens can be a dangerous business these days.

The indictment describes an alleged conspiracy by the three defendants, all employees at Gulf Coast Cold Storage, to remove dressed chicken carcasses from blast freezers before they had reached certain temperatures required by the trade agreement between the U.S. and Russia. In other instances, the defendants were alleged to have put chicken that reached higher than permissible temperatures back into the blast freezers.

Why, you must be asking, is the U.S. concerned about exports of warm chickens to Russia? Can they be weaponized into chicken wings of mass destruction? Will the warm chickens be served, pathogens and all, to Russian political prisoners? No, the warm chickens became criminal export violations through the wondrous intervention of the federal prosecutor’s jack-of-all-trades and catch-all statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, a/k/a the Martha Stewart law, which can transform almost any activity otherwise legal under U.S. law into a federal crime. Just as Martha Stewart went to jail for lying about perfectly legal activities, so the Pascagoula Three risk jail time for an allegedly untrue statement on an export certificate with respect to processing techniques that would not themselves have violated U.S. law.

When required by importing countries, as is the case with Russia for poultry exports, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue an export certificate attesting that the product complies with the importing country’s requirements. The exporter fills out an application for that certificate on FSIS Form 9060-6 which has a certification at the end that “the product covered by this application for export meets the inspection requirements for the country of destination.” This was the alleged false statement that served as the basis of the 18 U.S.C. § 1001 charge.

In order to sustain a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendants knew that their statements were false. United States v. Yermian, 708 F.2d 365 (9th Cir. 1983). Here that means that the prosecution must show that three guys working in a blast freezer in Mississippi were familiar with Russian law on chicken processing. That seems to be a heavy burden, although the indictment suggests that one or more of the defendants told others to report false chicken temperatures, which I suppose will be argued as proof that they knew the temperature requirements of Russian law.

And the moral of the story? It’s this: there is no product so benign or inconsequential that someone can’t figure out how to send you to jail for exporting it.

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