The owner of a Bellingham fish processing plant has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of selling coho salmon labeled as chinook.
According to the plea document filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Douglas Jay is owner of D Jay Enterprises Inc., doing business as Swiftsure Foods. In that document, Jay admits that between May 2005 and mid-2007 he told his employees to use cheaper coho salmon to fill customer orders for chinook, and falsify documents and labels to conceal the switch.
That earned Jay's company an extra $2 to $2.50 per pound, but it may also earn Jay fines and other financial penalties, or even prison time. The false labeling is a violation of the Lacey Act, a 1900 law. Maximum penalty is five years in prison.
Although Jay has yet to be sentenced, the plea agreement indicates that his cooperation with authorities will be taken into account.
The financial penalty will include restitution at least equal to the illegal profits on what prosecutors contend was thousands of pounds of salmon sales. But the plea agreement says prosecutors and defendants do not agree on how much profit was made, and a federal judge will be asked to rule on the matter.
Once the dollar amount based on the profits is set by the judge, Jay has agreed to make a "community service payment" in that amount to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for species and habitat conservation.
He also will pay for a public apology in the form of an advertisement in a seafood industry publication.