Berkeley man in false java jam

Monday March 05, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — A Berkeley man has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for his involvement in a scheme to pass off Central American coffee as premium Kona coffee from Hawaii. 

Michael Norton admitted 87 percent of the coffee he sold as pure Kona coffee was actually grown elsewhere. Kona coffee fetches much higher prices than coffee grown in Central America. 

From 1993 to 1996, Norton purchased and sold about 3.6 million pounds of the mislabeled coffee, prosecutors said. 

Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco said Norton made $15 million from the scheme. Norton was convicted last year on charges of wire fraud and tax evasion. 

Norton also admitted he failed to pay taxes on $1.3 million he made from the sales. He is required to pay almost $1 million in restitution and back taxes, and will forfeit more than $3 million.