U.S. Attorney John H. Durham announced Thursday the owner of Fairfield Food Services, a food distribution business, was sentenced to 36 months in prison for defrauding three restaurant groups of millions of dollars.
Sixty-four-year-old Mark Berlin of Boca Raton, Florida bought foods from wholesale venders and sold them to retail food distributors and restaurants. Berlin would meet with the victim company’s representatives to pitch specific sales opportunities. He made several misrepresentations to secure the sales between April 2012 and April 2015, according to court documents.
Berlin told victim companies that he had made arrangements with wholesale suppliers to obtain “futures contracts” from the wholesalers and the victim companies could “lock in” low prices, if they would agree to pay for products in advance to the delivery date.
To support his claims, Berlin provided victim companies “Bill and Hold” invoices, which purportedly reflected certain monies to be paid to whole suppliers. The victim companies would then pay those invoices in full.
Berlin did not have “future contracts” or “locked in” prices with wholesale suppliers. He did not pay wholesalers before products were delivered and typically never paid them until 30 or 60 days after the products were delivered, according to court documents.
Fairfield Food Services filed bankruptcy by April 2015. The company owed victim restaurant groups about $5.3 million and hundreds of thousands of dollars to wholesale suppliers.
In addition to the prison term, Berlin was ordered to pay $5.3 million in restitution.