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Mucci Farms, execs charged with fraud

A court hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 15 in connection with charges filed against two top officials at Mucci Farms, headquartered in Kingsville, ON. General Manager Danny Mucci and Vice President of Sales and Marketing Joe Spano face charges of defrauding the public and three major grocery store chains by misrepresenting the country of origin of greenhouse vegetables the company markets.

Mucci Farms is also being charged as a business in the case. The retail outlets involved are Costco Wholesale, Sobeys Inc. and Loblaw Cos.

According to court documents filed in Ontario, the men are charged with violations of the Criminal Code, Canadian Agricultural Products Act, Fresh Fruit & Vegetables Regulations, Food & Drug Act and the Consumer Packaging & Labelling Act.

In a prior interview, Spano told The Produce News the company owns and operates 150 acres in greenhouse production and represents an additional 400 acres of Canadian greenhouses. Mucci also represents Mexican growers with an additional 200-300 acres in production.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is conducting an investigation into the case.

When asked about the involvement of the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., Fred Webber, president and chief executive officer, said, "It would not be appropriate for DRC to comment on any ongoing investigation or any pending charges. From a broad perspective, DRC members all have standards and responsibilities they must maintain to continue as DRC members. Any member found guilty of breaching those standards and responsibilities could be terminated or required to post financial security."

Attorney Patrick Ducharme, a senior partner at the Windsor law firm of Ducharme & Fox LLP, is representing the defendants. The Produce News reached him in Miami on July 30 for his comments.

“Yes, I’ve been advised of the charges and expect the case will go to trial,” he stated. Ducharme said he had not received disclosures from the prosecutors prior to his trip to Miami.

Emily Murracas, marketing director for Mucci Farms, also provided The Produce News with a brief statement on July 30. “We cannot comment at this time because of pending litigation,” she said. “But we’re staying positive at this time.”