The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on Bella Fresh Houston LLC, Houston, Texas, for violating the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. 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.
Bella Fresh failed to pay $3,154,711 to 10 sellers for produce that was purchased, received and accepted in interstate and foreign commerce from December 2017 to May 2019. This is in violation of the PACA. Bella Fresh cannot operate in the produce industry until Jan. 9, 2023, and then only after they apply for and are issued a new PACA license by USDA.
The company’s principal, Andrew Ruggiero, may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee until Jan. 9, 2022, 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.
Sanctions lifted for Azteca International Produce LLC
USDA announced that Azteca International Produce LLC satisfied an $83,396 reparation order issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act involving unpaid produce transactions.
The San Antonio, Texas, company can continue operating in the produce industry upon applying for and being issued a PACA license. Hilda Rivera and Luc Delorme were listed as managers and members of the business and may now be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee.
PACA provides an administrative forum to handle disputes involving produce transactions; this may result in USDA’s issuance of a reparation order that requires damages to be paid by those not meeting their contractual obligations in buying and selling fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. USDA is required to suspend the license or impose sanctions on an unlicensed business that fails to pay PACA reparations awarded against it as well as impose restrictions against those principals determined to be responsibly connected to the business when the order is issued. 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.
Once a reparation order is fully satisfied and it is confirmed that there are not any outstanding unpaid awards, USDA lifts the employment restrictions of the previously named, responsibly connected individuals. USDA also requires any unlicensed company that fully satisfies all unpaid reparation awards to obtain a license if it continues to operate in the industry.
Click here for an overview of companies who previously violated PACA.