Release No.: 036-20
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2020 – As part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on four produce businesses for failing to meet their contractual obligations to the sellers of produce they purchased and failing to pay reparation awards issued under the PACA. These sanctions include suspending the businesses’ PACA licenses and barring the principal operators of the businesses from engaging in PACA-licensed business or other activities without approval from USDA. By issuing these penalties, USDA continues to enforce the prompt and full payment for produce while protecting the rights of sellers and buyers in the marketplace.
The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
- Lurie Brothers LLC, operating out of Chicago, Ill., for failing to pay a $26,163 award in favor of an Arkansas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Salvatore Cimino, Alex Dernis and John Dernis were listed as members of the business. Another principal of the business at the time of the order was Frank Cione. He has challenged his responsibly connected status.
- Central America Specialties Inc., operating out of Beltsville, Md., for failing to pay a $2,575 award in favor of a Florida seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Benecio Reyes was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.
- A & A Vegetables Inc., operating out of Hicksville, N.Y., for failing to pay a $70,200 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Amandeep Singh was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.
- Hunter Bros. Inc., operating out of Philadelphia Pa., for failing to pay a $2,682 award in favor of a New Jersey seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Frank J. Wiechec III was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.
PACA provides an administrative forum to handle disputes involving produce transactions; this may result in USDA’s issuance of a reparation order that requires damages to be paid by those not meeting their contractual obligations in buying and selling fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. USDA is required to suspend the license or impose sanctions on an unlicensed business that fails to pay PACA reparations awarded against it as well as impose restrictions against those principals determined to be responsibly connected to the business when the order is issued. Those individuals, including sole proprietors, partners, members, managers, officers, directors or major stockholders, may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee without USDA approval.
The PACA Division, which is in the Fair Trade Practices Program in the Agricultural Marketing Service, regulates fair trading practices of produce businesses that are operating subject to PACA, including buyers, sellers, commission merchants, dealers and brokers within the fruit and vegetable industry.
In the past three years, USDA resolved approximately 3,500 PACA claims involving more than $58 million. PACA staff also assisted more than 7,800 callers with issues valued at approximately $148 million. These are just two examples of how USDA continues to support the fruit and vegetable industry.
For more information regarding this matter, contact John Koller, Chief, Dispute Resolution Branch, at (202) 720-2890, by fax at (202) 690-2815, or by email at PACAdispute@usda.gov regarding this matter.
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