Five individuals and two domestic honey-processing companies have been charged with federal crimes in connection with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations-led investigation, known as “Project Honeygate,” regarding illegal imports of honey from China.
The charges allege that the Chinese-origin honey was misdeclared as other commodities when it was imported into the U.S. and transshipped through other countries to evade anti-dumping duties. The seven defendants reportedly evaded anti-dumping duties totaling more than $180 million.
Honey Holding, doing business as Honey Solutions, of Baytown, Texas, and Groeb Farms, of Onsted, Mich., have both entered into deferred prosecution agreements with the government. Honey Holding has agreed to pay $1 million and Groeb Farms has agreed to pay $2 million in fines. Both companies have also agreed to implement corporate compliance programs as part of their respective agreements.
The individual defendants include three honey brokers, the former director of sales for Honey Holding and the president of Premium Food Sales, a broker and distributor of raw and processed honey in Bradford, Ontario.
“These businesses intentionally deprived the U.S. government of millions of dollars in unpaid duties,” said Daniel Ragsdale, ICE deputy director, in a written statement. “Schemes like this result in legitimate importers and the domestic honey-producing industry enduring years of unprofitable operations, with some even being put out of business.”