Biggest Cheese Bust in Memory in Miami

Categories: Buyer Beware
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Alex Izaguirre

Two Hondurans were busted Monday for illegally selling diseased cheese to more than 30 people in Miami.

The pair -- Francisca Josefina Lopez, 40, and Jorge Alexis Ochoa Lopez, 34 -- was nailed for importing $322,000 of the stuff from Nicaragua and then illegally reselling it. Most was contaminated with staph, according to the FDA. They had been told to get rid of it.

The Lopezes imported 170,000 pounds of the cheese between December 2009 and March 2010. The FDA checked it in Atlanta and determined three of four shipments included staph, which is dangerous when eaten. The fourth showed phosphatase, meaning it hadn't been pasteurized, as shipping documents stated. An order was quickly issued to destroy it.

Later, authorities checked containers at the Port of Miami that were supposed to be the cheese exiting the United States. They found some cheese as well as buckets of dirty water. Next, they issued a search warrant for the pair's Lacteos factory on NW 23rd Street at 14th Avenue. (No one answered the phone there Monday.)

Records showed the cheese had been sold illegally to the public. One of the customers had even tested and returned it. The Lopezes resold it anyway, authorities say. They face at least five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


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