Major US seafood processor to cease production

National Fish & Seafood, which produces Matlaw salmon fillets and burgers, crumbles under the weight of criminal prosecutions and bankruptcy.

A Gloucester, Massachusetts, US, seafood processor – which has been plagued by issues such as criminal prosecutions and the bankruptcy of its majority owner has ceased operations, according to the Gloucester Times.

“Unfortunately, despite great strides we made in improving operating performance, National Fish just had too many legacy issues that prevented us from consummating a sale,” National Fish president Todd Provost wrote in a release that went out on Friday.

Approximately 150 employees have been given a severance package of 60 days’ pay and the continuation of health insurance for an indefinite period of time.

“Thanks to our parent company Pacific Andes, a USD2.5 billion leader in the global seafood industry, and one of the largest, fully integrated international frozen seafood suppliers, we can count on an abundant supply of seafood from a fleet of 54 commercial fishing vessels located throughout the world’s oceans. With their combined experience and knowledge, Pacific Andes and National Fish together leverage a network of strategically located processing plants that produce 120 million pounds of seafood a year. An unbroken cold chain of distribution partners and logistics ensures the seafood is processed, stored and transported under strict conditions,” write the blurb on National Fish & Seafood’s official site.

The Hong Kong-based Pacific Andes Group – which at the time was the world’s 12th-largest seafood company – filed for bankruptcy in 2016, blaming storm El Nino’s impact on depleted anchovy stocks. National Fish and Seafood, which controls the Matlaw’s brand of seafood products and was owned 60 per cent by Pacific Andes, was not included in the bankruptcy filing.

Upper echelons of the National Fish and Seafood were involved in a number of serious criminal convictions – including its founder and president Jack Ventola, 71.

Ventola began his two-year sentence in federal prison in July 2018, after being convicted three months earlier in U.S. District Court in Boston for failure to pay taxes on USD 2.9 million he fraudulently diverted from National Fish in schemes that ran from 2006 to 2013.

It didn’t stop there. As part of his plea deal with prosecutors, founder Ventola admitted conspiring with two other National Fish executives — senior sales executive Richard J. Pandolfo and head of operations James Corbett, who died in 2013 and never was criminally charged — and National Fish accountant and board member Michael Bruno in several schemes to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and majority owner Pacific Andes.

Bruno was sentenced to a year of probation, with the first six months served in home confinement, and fined USD 20,000 and ordered to pay more than USD 1 million in restitution to the IRS.

Pandolfo also was sentenced to a year’s probation, ordered to pay USD 26,000 in restitution to the IRS and fined almost USD 5,000.

Former employee, Kathleen A. Scanlon – who was National Fish’s head of research and development and quality control – was involved in a corporate espionage lawsuit, in which it was alleged they she stole trade secrets, recipes, confidential processing information and other sensitive data on her way out the door to a new position with Florida-based competitor Tampa Bay Fisheries. National Fish and the assorted defendants settled the case out of court and the terms of the settlement were sealed.

It is not yet known what will happen to the Matlaw range.


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