(Updated coverage, Feb. 4) The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited a South Carolina tomato distributor for repeated violations, and ordered the company not to do business until Dec. 31, 2011.
Columbia, S.C.-based Carolina Tomato Inc., which went out of business in 2007, has failed to make full payment to 36 sellers in the amount of $9.6 million, under terms of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), according to a USDA news release.
A judgment was entered against Carolina Tomato in June 2008 in the U.S. District Court for South Carolina. Also in 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed an administrative action against the company.
About $990,000 has been paid to creditors thus far, said Mike Keaton, an attorney representing several creditors.
Creditors owed $250,000 or more in the 2008 judgment include Boca Raton, Fla.-based Thomas Produce Co.; Palmetto, Fla.-based West Coast Tomato Inc. and To-mato Man Inc.; East Coast Brokers & Packers Inc., Plant City, Fla.; Naples, Fla.-based Gargiulo Inc.; and Six L's Packing Co. Inc., Immokalee, Fla.
The former Carolina Tomato has continued to do business in Columbia under different names, including Carolina Veg, Virginia Produce and Winston Tomato, Keaton said.
Carolina Tomato may only resume business if it regains its PACA license. In addition, the company’s principals, Gary Goodnight and Phillip Jones, are not permitted to work for a PACA licensee until Dec. 31, 2010.