Founder of Wye River Inc. given 1 year for mail fraud He intends to work while serving sentence

January 25, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

The president of Wye River Inc. says his conviction and one-year sentence for mail fraud won't stop his company from being a competitor in the local seafood seasoning market.

"We've been doing fine and will continue to," said Joseph L. Bernard III, who founded the company 11 years ago. He was sentenced in U.S. District Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to defrauding the Food Lion grocery chain of $328,555 in a phony billing scheme.

Mr. Bernard said he will continue working at his Queenstown-based company -- a competitor of spice giant McCormick & Co. Inc. -- even while serving his sentence. Judge Frederick Motz ordered that he serve six months at a Baltimore confinement facility that allows him to go to work and another six months on home detention.

His company produces and markets seasonings for crabs, plus other products such as crab soup, tartar sauce and seafood cocktail sauce. In 1992, the company supplied the meat and recipe for McDonald's venture into the crabcake market.

Court documents said that beginning in 1988 and continuing until August 1993, Mr. Bernard overcharged Food Lion by listing inflated prices on invoices. He told the judge that he was sorry for what he had done, and in an interview yesterday said the Food Lion account's irregularities "were an isolated situation" and that audits of the company's other accounts came up clean.

He has paid back the majority of the money, but he owes $148,855 in restitution, court papers said. Prosecutors charged him with mail fraud, since the Food Lion invoices were sent through the U.S. Postal Service.

Mr. Bernard started the company in a garage in the mid-1980s and in the next decade he turned it into a $5.5 million operation.

"I work seven days a week and that won't change," Mr. Bernard said.

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