2 San Jose women accused of illegally smuggling tropical fruit from Vietnam, authorities say

The Deputy District Attorney said some of the fruit tested contained eggs of an invasive fruit fly

Lauren Martinez Image
Friday, September 1, 2023
San Jose women accused of smuggling tropical fruit from Vietnam
Two San Jose women are facing felony charges for illegally importing tropical fruit. Here's a look at the possible impact for consumers.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Two San Jose women are facing felony charges for illegally importing tropical fruit.

This case is the first felony prosecution by the District Attorney's Office of illegally importing fruit in violation of the Food and Agriculture Code.

The women facing charges are 42-year-old Hanh Hong Huynh and 36-year-old Thanh Tuyen Huynh. The two are unrelated to each other and are charged with conspiracy to import and sell fruit in violation of federal and state agricultural laws.

Chris Judge, Deputy District Attorney, said these two women took efforts to conceal what they were doing by mislabeling shipments as either tea or coffee.

"The evidence shows that these two women were shipping these fruits from Vietnam fairly regularly, that they were sophisticated at doing it and that when the shipments occurred, there were hundreds of pounds of fruit in each particular shipment," Judge said.

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The deputy district attorney said some of the fruit tested contained eggs of an invasive fruit fly.

Judge said his office was alerted to this case from the Santa Clara County Department of Agriculture.

Michelle Thom, the Deputy Agricultural Commissioner, said uncovering this case was a joint partnership.

"I think it was the USDA got tipped off that these types of sales were happening and because it was happening in our county, they reached out to CDFA and to us and we started looking into it," Thom said.

Since May of last year, at least one of the women was warned twice to stop selling illegal fruit before charges were filed in this case.

"On at least some occasions she was storing it at her home in San Jose and was using the app Facebook Marketplace to make the sales," Judge said.

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Also in 2022, officials say one of the women had around 200 pounds of Langsat, an illegal fruit , addressed to her business at a shopping center in East San Jose.

The package was labeled as dried fish, coffee and tea.

Joseph Deviney is the Agricultural Commissioner for the county.

"When shipments come in on a plane from a foreign country, if it's miss manifested I've seen everything from like presentation materials, or linens then yeah the inspectors are not really clued in to look at it that is a smuggling technique," Deviney said.

Experts say should the oriental fruit fly spread -the ramifications of an infestation would be huge.

"We'd have to spray more and more pesticides and we're trying to away from the use to of pesticides, this would create more spraying and then another thing that's worse, if we were to become infested, we wouldn't be able to ship all of our fruit to other countries," Deviney said.

As a consumer, buying extremely expensive fruit by the pound should be a sign to think twice.

"If you're paying $15, $20, $25 a pound I think that should raise some questions for yourself like is this legal?" Thom said.

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