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Enforcement Summaries

Investigative and Enforcement Service’s Enforcement Summaries provide a summary of the enforcement actions APHIS has taken to help promote compliance with APHIS-administered laws. It is important to recognize that these enforcement actions are just one tool APHIS uses to promote compliance, and is only one aspect of the Agency’s mission to protect the health and value of American agriculture.

APHIS has a number of available options to resolve a case where the evidence substantiates that an alleged violation has occurred. These options include issuing regulatory correspondence (such as an official warning) to the individuals or businesses involved in the alleged violation, offering to resolve the case through a stipulated penalty, and referring the case to the USDA Office of the General Counsel for formal administrative action before the Office of Administrative Law Judges or referral to the Department of Justice. The Enforcement Actions tabs below describe the various types of enforcement actions APHIS has taken during fiscal year 2018 and show the distribution of those enforcement actions among the APHIS programs.

Enforcement Actions and Regulatory Correspondence

APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services’ open inventory of cases involve investigative, enforcement, and regulatory support services for the four APHIS programs it serves, as well as for agricultural quarantine inspection activities carried out by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection. A case may involve one or more individuals or businesses.

Fiscal Year 2018. In fiscal year 2018, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 1,237 new cases, issued 274 warning letters, entered into 470 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $777,333 in stipulated penalties, and obtained, through Office of the General Counsel action, Consent Decisions and Orders assessing $277,299 in civil penalties.

At the end of FY 2018, Investigative and Enforcement Services had 557 open cases at various stages of the investigation and enforcement process. Of those pending cases, 132 involved agriculture quarantine inspection activities under an expedited resolution program. The remaining 425 cases were from the various APHIS programs and Customs and Border Protection. Distribution of those 425 cases is shown in the following chart, organized by APHIS program.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

*Chart does not include open passenger baggage or regulated garbage cases pending at the end of FY18 that were part of the expedited resolution programs.

Distribution of the 132 pending passenger baggage and regulated garbage cases is shown in the chart above.

In many instances, APHIS may enter into a settlement (or stipulation) to resolve alleged violations of APHIS-administered laws. In cases in which the evidence substantiates that a violation occurred and the circumstances of the alleged violation are such that APHIS determines that a penalty is appropriate, Investigative and Enforcement Services may offer to resolve the case through these pre-litigation settlement agreements.

In fiscal year 2018, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 470 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $777,333 in stipulated penalties. A significant portion of those settlement agreements (354 cases and $332,125 in stipulated penalties) are the result of an expedited resolution program involving agriculture quarantine inspection activities, where Customs and Border Protection refers the matter to Investigative and Enforcement Services while simultaneously providing evidence related to the alleged violation. The distribution of all other cases for which pre-litigation settlement agreements were issued and stipulated penalties collected are shown in the following two charts.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

*Chart does not include settlement agreements for passenger baggage or regulated garbage cases that were handled as part of the expedited resolution programs.


Distribution of the 354 settlement agreements issued for alleged regulated garbage and passenger baggage violations is shown in the following two charts.

APHIS has a number of available options to resolve a case where the evidence substantiates that an alleged violation occurred. Those options include issuing regulatory correspondence (such as an official warning) to the individuals or businesses involved in the alleged violation, offering to resolve the case through a stipulated penalty, and referring a case to USDA’s Office of the General Counsel for formal administrative action before an Administrative Law Judge.

In fiscal year 2018, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 274 official warnings to individuals or businesses involved in cases where the evidence substantiated that an alleged violation of a statute or regulation that APHIS administers occurred, but for which APHIS chose to not pursue a civil penalty or formal administrative action. An official warning or other regulatory correspondence is not a penalty, nor is it an enforcement action against an individual or business. Rather, the purpose of official warnings and other regulatory correspondence is to provide notice of the legal requirements and information to promote compliance with the law. Distribution of warning letters is shown in the following chart, categorized by program area.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s).
 

For cases involving serious violations or for which regulatory correspondence or a stipulated penalty may not be appropriate, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services may refer the case to USDA’s Office of the General Counsel to initiate formal administrative action before the Office of Administrative Law Judges and seek civil penalties or other sanctions for alleged violation of APHIS statutes.

APHIS has many cases in various stages of the formal administrative process before the Office of Administrative Law Judges, including several under judicial review, in coordination with the Office of the General Counsel. Formal administrative action usually begins by filing an administrative complaint against a respondent. At that time, the USDA Hearing Clerk will assign a “docket number,” which is a unique number assigned to an administrative complaint. A single respondent may have more than one pending administrative complaint.

In fiscal year 2018, APHIS, through the Office of the General Counsel, obtained consent decisions and orders in 56 proceedings assessing $277,299 in civil penalties for violations of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act and disqualifying 43 individuals from participating in activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act. In addition, APHIS obtained four final orders suspending or revoking Animal Welfare Act licenses.

The following pie chart shows the distribution of individuals and businesses whom APHIS has referred to the Office of the General Counsel for formal administrative action, categorized by program area.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 


APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services cases involve investigative, enforcement, and regulatory support services for the four APHIS programs it serves, as well as for agricultural quarantine inspection activities carried out by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection.

Each case is different and may vary in investigative scope, complexity, and time required to review. Some cases may involve multiple individuals or organizations, traverse multiple states and/or U.S. territories, and include multiple alleged violations—any of which might require extensive investigative resources to obtain sufficient evidence to determine whether an alleged violation has occurred. Other cases may be more straightforward, where the initial evidence clearly substantiates the alleged violation, allowing Investigative and Enforcement Services to more quickly process the case to help APHIS officials determine the appropriate resolution. Finally, Investigative and Enforcement Services conducts a streamlined review of most cases involving alleged regulated garbage and passenger baggage violations in support of agriculture quarantine inspection activities. These cases are completed as part of an expedited resolution program, in which Customs and Border Protection refers a case to APHIS while simultaneously providing evidence related to the alleged violation.

In fiscal year 2018, Investigative and Enforcement Services opened a total of 1,237 new cases. Of those cases, 805 consisted of referrals in support of agriculture quarantine inspection activities and were handled as part of the expedited resolution program. The remaining 432 investigations involved referrals from each of the four APHIS programs and Customs and Border Protection. Distribution of those 432 investigations is shown in the following chart, categorized by program area.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

*Chart does not include new cases referred as part of the regulated garbage (rg) and passenger baggage (pb) expedited resolution programs.

Distribution of the 805 passenger baggage and regulated garbage cases in expedited resolution programs is shown in the chart above.

IES Activity by Program Area

To support agriculture quarantine inspection activities in fiscal year 2018, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 1,008 cases, sent 111 warning letters, and issued 406 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $590,344 in stipulated penalties. In one case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement in the amount of $12,000 when it determined that a company failed to provide the Plant Protection and Quarantine office with required notification of vessel arrival into port on three separate occasions.

APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services also issued multiple pre-litigation settlements involving the alleged improper safeguarding of regulated garbage, including settlements with penalties totaling $284,000; alleged agriculture hold violations with penalties totaling $180,249; and alleged passenger baggage violations with penalties totaling $86,125.

In fiscal year 2018, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 19 Animal Welfare Act cases, sent 44 official warnings, issued 7 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $32,650 in stipulated penalties, and obtained consent decisions and orders assessing $225,499 in civil penalties and suspending or revoking four Animal Welfare Act licenses.  

In one case, APHIS entered into a consent decision relating to multiple willful violations of the Animal Welfare Act, resulting in a $99,999 civil penalty. In another case, APHIS obtained an administrative order against an individual for alleged Animal Welfare Act violations occurring from March 2008 through January 2012, assessing a $30,000 civil penalty.  In a third case, APHIS entered into a consent decision in which an individual agreed to a 90 day suspension of her Animal Welfare Act license.  APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services also negotiated several pre-litigation settlement agreements, including one involving a research facility that agreed to a $10,000 civil penalty to resolve multiple alleged Animal Welfare Act violations.

In fiscal year 2018, APHIS obtained Consent Decisions and Orders in 46 proceedings involving the Horse Protection Act, assessing $51,800 in civil penalties and disqualifying 43 individuals from participating in activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act.  In one case, APHIS entered into a consent decision relating to nine alleged violations of Horse Protection Act involving the same horse, resulting in an 18-month disqualification for one respondent, an 8-month disqualification for the other respondent, and a joint civil penalty of $19,800 for both respondents.

In addition to the warning letters and enforcement actions described above, APHIS has a variety of other tools it uses to promote compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. See the Animal Care Impact Report for additional information.

Investigative and Enforcement Services worked closely with Biotechnology Regulatory Services in fiscal year 2018 as part of an APHIS internal collaborative effort to further the protection and safeguarding of plant health throughout the United States. APHIS determined that incidents of concern regarding field operation practices were sufficiently resolved through several different types of regulatory correspondence including notices of findings, notices of non-compliance, and warning letters. Investigative and Enforcement Service also worked proactively with Biotechnology Regulatory Services to revise language used in its regulatory correspondence.

To support domestic plant health in fiscal year 2018, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 43 cases, sent 15 letters of regulatory correspondence, and issued 24 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $57,444 in stipulated penalties.

In one case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement in the amount of $10,000 for alleged violations of the Plant Protection Act. In that case, Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance officers discovered Uruguayan lemons, and Peruvian Hass avocados and clementines at four warehouses in Puerto Rico during multiple inspections over the course of 2 months. In another case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement in the amount of $3,125. In that case, Investigative and Enforcement Services alleged that a company moved 1,061 regulated plant pests (multiple species of moth and butterfly in different stages of development) interstate from Arizona in violation of the Plant Protection Act over the course of 5 months.

To support animal health in fiscal year 2018, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 166 cases, issued 104 letters of regulatory correspondence, and 33 pre-litigation settlements resulting in the collection of $96,895 in stipulated penalties. 

In one case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement in the amount of $39,062 for an alleged violation of the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act relating to the release and infection of non-human primates with a select agent. In another case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement in the amount of $7,500 for an alleged violation of the Animal Health Protection Act and animal disease traceability regulations relating to the interstate movement of beef and dairy cattle without interstate certificates of veterinary inspection.


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