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USDA sanctions California company in $3.9 million PACA case

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2020 – As a part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on Trinity Fresh Distribution LLC BB #:205702 (Trinity Fresh), Sacramento, CA, for failing to meet its contractual obligations to the sellers of produce it purchased.

These sanctions include barring the business and the principal operators of the business 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.

Trinity Fresh failed to pay $3,898,506 to ten sellers for produce that was purchased, received and accepted in interstate and foreign commerce from March 2018 to January 2019. This is in violation of the PACA. Trinity Fresh cannot operate in the produce industry until June 3, 2022, and then only after they apply for and are issued a new PACA license by USDA.

The company’s principal, Paul Abess, may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee until June 3, 2021, and then only with the posting of a USDA approved surety bond.

USDA is required to publish the finding that a business has committed willful, repeated and flagrant violations of PACA as well as impose restrictions against those principals determined to be responsibly connected to the business during the violation period. 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 a part of AMS’ Fair Trade Practices Program, 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 further information, contact Corey Elliott, Chief, Investigative Enforcement Branch, at (202) 720-6873, or by email at PACAInvestigations@usda.gov.

Blue Book analyzed this in a case study earlier this year.