July 19, 2004 – LAWFUEL – Marcos D. Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; William Hawkes, Undersecretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs, United States Department of Agriculture; W. Ron De Haven, Administrator, United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“USDA – APHIS”); Alan Christian, Director, USDA – APHIS, Investigative and Enforcement Service; Dr. Richard L. Dunkle, Deputy Administrator, Plant Protection and Quarantine, USDA – APHIS; Michael Shannon, Florida Plant Health Director, USDA – APHIS; A. J. Yates, Administrator, USDA – Agriculture Marketing Service; Charles Bronson, Commissioner, and Craig Meyer, Deputy Commissioner, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; and Andrew Taylor, Chairman, Florida Citrus Commission, announced that on July 9, 2004, defendant, John A. Scotto, of Ft. Pierce, and his company, Tuxedo Fruit Company, Inc. (“TFC”), pleaded guilty to separate charges of an Information and were sentenced by United States District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in West Palm Beach, Florida. TFC is a family owned and operated business in Ft. Pierce that is engaged in the harvesting, packing, shipping, and selling of fruit. Scotto is the President and operator of TFC.
TFC pleaded guilty to Count 1 of the Information, which charged it with knowingly falsely representing on USDA approved forms that citrus fruit had been harvested from Caribbean Fruit Fly free groves, when in fact, the fruit was harvested from unprotected groves, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001(a)(2). Scotto pleaded guilty to Count 2 of the Information, which charged him with knowingly using Phytosanitary Certificates without authority from the Secretary of Agriculture, in violation of Title 7, United States Code, Section 7734(A) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.
After accepting the guilty pleas, Judge Middlebrooks sentenced the defendants to five years’ probation and imposed a series of conditions, including prohibiting the defendants from participating in the Caribbean Fruit Fly Protocol Program that allows individuals to certify that their fruit is Caribbean Fruit Fly free, and requiring the hiring of state or federal inspectors to witness and monitor the harvesting and processing of fruit prior to shipping. Judge Middlebrooks also ordered the defendants to make a $150,000.00 community service payment to the University of Florida Foundation, Citrus Research and Education Center, to be used for Caribbean Fruit Fly research and bait station technology. Judge Middlebrooks also required the defendants to reimburse approximately $42,000.00 to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the USDA – APHIS for their costs in investigating the case.
Mr. Jimenez commended the investigative efforts of the various federal and state agencies, including the USDA-APHIS, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Caribbean Fruit Fly Certification Program, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Diane Patrick.