USDA Cites Bella Fresh in Houston for PACA Violations
WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it has imposed sanctions on Bella Fresh Houston LLC (Bella Fresh) of Houston, Texas, for its violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). The sanctions include barring the business and its principal operator from engaging in PACA-licensed business or activities without USDA approval.
Direct From USDA Agricultural Marketing Service:
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.
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.
For more information, and to read the press release in its entirety, click here.