Hunts Point scandal back in the news

| 9/19/2002

The USDA has filed administrative actions against five of the 14 companies involved in the three-year-old bribery scandal in Hunts Point, NY, for repeatedly violating the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). The five companies are: Coosemans Specialities Inc., Trombetta & Sons Inc., Kleiman & Hochberg Inc., B.T. Produce Co. Inc., and Koam Produce Inc.

Employees in all five companies earlier had entered guilty pleas in the bribery and racketeering scandal that ripped apart the market in 1999 causing a permanent rift between grower-shippers and the market. The charges against the five companies stem from allegations that employees bribed federal inspectors to issue false inspection certificates on certain loads of perishable agricultural commodities.

The USDA actions may include barring the five companies from doing business at the market for up to two years.

According to The Packer (a news source for the produce industry), additional charges may be levied against at least three, and possibly as many as eight more companies. One attorney representing three -- as yet un-named -- companies said barring that many companies doing business at Hunts Point would mean rough times for everyone involved.

Dan Kane Jr., president of Teamsters Local 2002, which represents more than 1,200 workers, said closure of that many companies would cause lasting damage to both the market and the companies. "I think it would irreparably damage the terminal market and definitely have repercussions to the consumer," he said.