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Jericho food distributors plead guilty to mislabeling squid as octopus

Two Jericho frozen food distributors pleaded guilty Monday to illegally selling mislabeled squid as more expensive octopus in a three-year $1.1 million scheme that spanned the country, according to federal prosecutors.

Roy Tuccillo Sr., and his son, Roy Tuccillo Jr., and their companies, Anchor Frozen Foods and Advanced Frozen Foods, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the scheme, prosecutors said. The two imported the giant squid from Peru, then processed, marketed and sold more than 113,000 pounds of squid as octopus valued at $1.1 million between 2011 and 2014, according to prosecutors, who said the men admitted defrauding more than 10 grocery stores. Each faces a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000.

Joseph Conway, a lawyer for Roy Tuccillo Sr. and Anchor, confirmed Monday evening that a plea “did occur today,” but said, “I really don’t have any comment at this time.”

Tuccillo Jr. could not be reached and his lawyer, Richard Langone, did not return a message.

Transporting and selling falsely labeled fish is a violation of the federal Lacey Act. 

“Seafood fraud is illegal, undermines confidence in the  market place, and can have serious consequences for fish, fishermen, the seafood industry and consumers,” James Landon, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement, said in a statement. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires squid to be sold be sold by that name or calamari, while octopus can only be sold under the name, octopus.

In a separate court action last week, federal district court Judge Joseph Bianco sentenced Bronx fish dealer Mark Parente to six months of home confinement and five years probation for his part in a scheme to cover up purchases of illegal fluke, scup and black sea bass in 2011. Parente, owner of Lou’s Fish Market, cooperated with authorities and testified early in 2018 in a case against Northport fisherman Tom Kokell, who fought charges of illegally harvesting fish outside federal limits.

Federal prosecutors in September moved to formally dismiss wire-fraud and conspiracy charges against Kokell who in September of 2018 entered a one-year deferred prosecution agreement with the government. 

Parente, in addition to home detention, surrendered his dealer license, was ordered to pay over $500,000 in fines, restitution and community service, and his company, Lou’s Fish Market, also paid $500,000 in fines and community service.

Parente’s attorney, Anthony LaPinta, confirmed the sentencing, saying, "We are pleased with this outcome and hope that Mr. Parente can put this ordeal behind him and move forward with his life."

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