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Progreso Produce owner charged in multimillion-dollar fraud

USDA Cites Progreso Produce Limited 1 L.P. in Texas for PACA Violations

Release No.: 186-14
Nadine Wilkins (202) 720-8998

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Progreso Produce Limited 1 L.P., Boerne, Texas, for failure to pay for produce.

The company failed to pay $3,904,232 to eight sellers for 760 lots of produce. 

This is in violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). 

As a result of these actions, USDA and Progreso Produce Limited 1 L.P. entered into a consent decision barring the company from operating in the produce industry until June 25, 2016, at which time it may reapply for a PACA license.

The company’s principal, Curtis H. Deberry, may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee until June 25, 2015, and then only with the posting of a USDA-approved surety bond.


JUNE 12, 2014 : 

Updated: June 12, 2014 9:50pm

SAN ANTONIO — The owner of Boerne-based Progreso Produce Co. has been charged with duping millions of dollars from investors and a bank as his firm plummeted.

Curtis Harold DeBerry, according to federal agents, diverted assets meant for creditors to hobbies that included a yacht owned by one of his entities, called “Masterbaiter Charters LLC," and replied “I don't care” when questioned in bankruptcy court about the irregularities.

DeBerry, 53, was arrested Thursday at his home in the Dominion as part of an investigation by the FBI, the IRS' Criminal Investigation division and the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee. 

He is charged with wire fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

He was ordered held without bond pending a bail hearing on Tuesday.

Progreso was founded more than 40 years ago by one of DeBerry's relatives, and ran into trouble in recent years as DeBerry was at the helm.

Last year, Progreso was liquidated, and investigators say DeBerry committed fraud before and after the company filed for bankruptcy, according to a criminal complaint affidavit.

The affidavit said that, in 2011, Progreso, or PPC, partnered with Eclipse Berry Farms LLC to harvest and market strawberries grown in Zamora, Mexico.

The affidavit said DeBerry claimed Progreso had leases with 42 strawberry growers, and had advanced them more than $2.7 million. So, the affidavit said, Eclipse wired $8.1 million to Progreso for costs associated with growing, producing, packing and shipping strawberries.

Eclipse later sent people to check on the growers in Mexico, and found that none signed lease agreements with Progreso or agreed to provide strawberries.

In early 2012, the operator of Icy Gulch Resources LLC became interested in buying Progreso after seeing an ad that claimed Progreso was profitable.

When Icy Gulch was unable to get financing but was still interested, DeBerry falsely claimed there were competing offers, the affidavit said. In April 2013, Icy Gulch wired $500,000 in a bid to keep others from buying Progreso, the affidavit said.

DeBerry provided paperwork claiming the company was doing well, but it was actually a “sinking ship,” the affidavit said.

Investigators later found that DeBerry transferred the $500,000 to his kids' accounts.

The affidavit also said DeBerry duped JP Morgan Chase Bank between 2012 and 2013 into providing Progreso with lines of credit totaling about $7 million to help refinance debt previously held at another bank.

On Sept. 20, Progreso filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and that same day, JP Morgan Chase charged off the entire $7 million balance.

Staff Writer Jason Buch contributed to this story

Progreso Produce owner's fraud trial moves forward


-NEWS : JUNE 17, 2014

SAN ANTONIO — The owner of Boerne-based Progreso Produce Co. made bond Tuesday, but not until a hearing established probable cause for his case to move toward trial.

Curtis Harold DeBerry was arrested Thursday and charged with wire fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering. 

DeBerry, 53, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. A criminal complaint affidavit said DeBerry swindled investors and a bank out of millions of dollars over the past few years.

That activity included transferring money to his children, diverting assets meant for creditors to fund his hobbies that included a yacht owned by one of his entities and lying to a business partner about lease agreements with strawberry growers, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit also said DeBerry duped the operator of Icy Gulch Resources LLC of $500,000.

In 2012, the operator became interested in buying Progreso, the affidavit said, but couldn't immediately get financing for the purchase.

The affidavit said DeBerry falsely claimed there were competing offers, including one from his father. In April 2013, Icy Gulch wired $500,000 in a bid to ward off the other offers.

Within a week, investigators found, DeBerry transferred $100,000 each to a son and daughter.

DeBerry's attorney, Cynthia Orr, told U.S. Magistrate John Primomo Tuesday that there currently are civil cases pursued by the chief financial officer of Eclipse Berry Farms LLC, as well as Icy Gulch, about DeBerry's alleged bamboozlings.

Weighing those active cases and DeBerry's detainment over the weekend, Orr argued that probable cause shouldn't be established.

“There are lawsuits, contested matters pending with regard to each of these matters and ... these are not clearly established matters at all and for that reason I would suggest to the court that probable cause does not exist.”

But after hearing testimony from Jeffrey Jenson, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations who signed the affidavit, Primomo ruled that there was probable cause, so the criminal trial could proceed.

DeBerry was released on a $50,000 bond. His travel is restricted to the Western and Southern Districts of Texas, and other districts he needs to travel to for those civil cases.

Twitter: @SamuelHHoward

Texas shipper indicted for fraud, money laundering

07/10/2014 04:34:00 PM
Pamela Riemenschneider


Curtis DeBerry, owner of Progreso Produce Ltd., has been indicted on nine counts including wire fraud, money laundering, falsified statements to a financial institution and false declarations in bankruptcy proceedings.

A grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in San Antonio handed down the indictment July 9. DeBerry, 53, was arrested in June and released on $50,000 bond. 

An arraignment is scheduled for July 22.

Progreso Produce filed for Chapter 7 liquidation in the fall. Before the filing, the indictment alleges DeBerry lied about deals with Mexican strawberry growers and Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. to bring in financing and lure in a potential buyer for the failing company.

Progreso Produce was started by DeBerry’s father Dale DeBerry more than 40 years ago.

Curtis DeBerry bought the company and the elder DeBerry remained in a sales role. 

Curtis DeBerry is the sole defendant in the indictment.

The indictment also alleges DeBerry falsified accounts receivable to secure about $7 million in refinancing, and lied to a potential buyer of the company, pitting the buyer against a nonexistent counteroffer to secure a $500,000 downpayment.

DeBerry could face jail time if convicted, with felony counts punishable up to 30 years, plus fines. He also is facing a civil suit related to the failed buyout.

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