Last week, Prime Airport Services, Inc., Miami, pleaded guilty to two counts of importing plants and plant pests, in violation of the Plant Protection Act. As a result of the plea, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro fined Prime Airport Services $1,000,000.
The Plant Protection Act was enacted on June 20, 2000 in response to the outbreak of citrus canker. It requires importers of plants and plant products to follow regulations designed to stem the release of noxious plant pests. The conviction of Prime Airport Services is the first felony case for violation of the Plant Protection Act nationwide.
According to court documents, on May 7, 2006, Customs and Border Protection detected the pest coleoptera on 198 kilograms of imported hydrangeas in the custody of Prime Airport Services and put the flowers on hold. Despite the hold, Prime Airport Services released the hydrangeas to their buyer.
Coleoptera is an order of insects that includes the Colorado potato weevil, the boll weevil, and the bark beetle, which have caused billions of dollars of damage to American agriculture and forests.
On Dec. 3, 2006, Prime Airport Services received 685 kilograms of imported asparagus. Two weeks later, Customs and Border Protection discovered the asparagus next to an open-air dumpster. The boxes and insect-proof mesh holding the asparagus were broken and torn.