A Rhode Island man sold phony Vermont maple syrup on the Internet until someone he tried to scam sensed the difference between the real thing and his sugary mixture, federal prosecutors said today.
Bernard Coleman, 50, of West Warwick, R.I., pleaded guilty Tuesday. He was sentenced to two years of probation for “introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead,” the US attorney’s office in Vermont said today in a statement.
Chief Judge Christina Reiss, who imposed the sentence, said Coleman “capitalized on the market appeal of Vermont maple syrup,” according to prosecutors.
In 2009, a Vermont man paid $220.50 in an online auction for what was advertised as pure Vermont maple syrup, the statement said.
The buyer’s wife, who makes specialty items out of the syrup, determined it was not real, based on the look, smell, and taste of the product.
The couple brought it to the Vermont Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, which tested it in a laboratory and found that it was actually made from cane sugar.
An investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture found that a seller, identified as Coleman, was buying large quantities of maple flavoring from a supply store in Rhode Island.
In a 2011 interview, Coleman admitted to investigators that when the price of maple syrup increased, he started making his own out of water, sugar, and maple flavoring at his home in Rhode Island, prosecutors said.