New Jersey Cheese War Gets Ugly

     NEWARK (CN) – A cheese war has broken out in New Jersey, and the accusations aren’t pretty: defamation, expired cheeses, and even Hurricane Sandy floodwaters.
     Latino’s Food Corp. sued its larger rival, Leblon Foods in Essex County Court. Both companies are based in Kearny, N.J.
     Latino’s claims that Leblon is defaming it to customers, while using unethical practices itself, including mixing expired cheeses into newer cheese, and washing products in Hurricane Sandy floodwaters.
     “Latino’s is a small food distribution company that began in early 2013.
     “Leblon is a large food distribution company that has embarked in a campaign of defamation and harassment against Latino’s,” the complaint states.
     Latino’s wastes no time in getting down to specifics. It claims that, among other things, Leblon mislabels nonkosher cheese as kosher.
     The complaint continues: “Leblon often uses/reprocesses expired and bad cheeses brought back to the warehouse from supermarkets, melts the cheese and mixes it with good cheese curd to resell in violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.
     “Leblon pays sales representatives commissions in cash to avoid payment of taxes in violation of IRS laws, which is an unconscionable business practice.
     “Leblon’s Marcelo Ferreira takes workers to Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, New York to obtain false documents and false social security numbers in order to hire undocumented persons, violating laws and engaging in unconscionable business practices.
     “Leblon has engaged in unlawful activities giving rise to violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including deliberately avoiding weigh stations on routes in and around Massachusetts to avoid detection of overloaded trucks. …
     “Furthermore, defendants took food that was ordered to be disposed, and washed the food in Hurricane Sandy flood waters and later resold that food to its customers.
     “Defendants stored food that was ordered to be disposed in its undisclosed warehouse for distribution.
     “A photograph of Defendant Marcello Ferreira washing cheese in Hurricane Sandy flood waters prior to distribution, is attached as Ex. D.”
     Ferreira is named as a defendant.
     Latino’s claims Leblon also defamed it, in letters of Feb. 12, March 13 and March 25. Leblon’s knew the defamatory statements in the letters were false when they made them, Latino’s claims.
     Latino’s claims its rival defamed it not only to consumer, but to “various federal and state governmental offices, police departments, and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.”
     Latino’s seeks punitive damages for consumer fraud, defamation and harassment.
     It is represented by Bryan Mintz with Paris, Ackerman & Schmierer, of Roseland, N.J.
     Also listed as plaintiffs are Umberto Oliveira and Andre DaRocha, whose positions at Latino’s are not specified in the complaint.

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