These cases of San Miguel cheese are similar to the product Food Brands of Wheaton alleges was diverted by a “rogue importer” to Quesos Finos Mexicanos of Alsip. (Food Brands)
A Wheaton company says a "rogue importer" moved its cheese, and the company wants it back.
Food Brands alleges in a lawsuit filed last week that $68,000 of "artisan, aged specialty cheese imported from Mexico" was stolen, diverted by the importer in collusion with another company, Quesos Finos Mexicanos of Alsip.
Food Brands and affiliate Grupo Premier Foods of Elk Grove Village say they have the exclusive right to sell San Miguel brand cheese nationwide, with a particular focus on the Hispanic food market in the Midwest.
In a lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, they allege that the importer cooked up the idea to route 972 cases of San Miguel to Quesos Finos, his former employer. Made in Tabasco, Mexico, the cheese originally was supposed to be sent to an address on South Lockwood Avenue in Chicago, but the 15 pallets are now at Quesos Finos’ headquarters on West 129th Street in Alsip, the lawsuit says.
The cause for the kerfuffle: The importer needed to repay a personal debt to Quesos Finos and steered the product to his former employer, which planned to sell the cheese under its own name, according to the Food Brands lawsuit.
Quesos Finos, which once was an exclusive distributor of San Miguel cheese, has ignored several demands by Food Brands to return the shipment, according to the lawsuit.
Replacing the San Miguel cheese with another shipment wouldn’t be easy, the lawsuit said.
"Because of the aging, artisanal process associated with San Miguel cheese, these products required lead time to process, package and deliver," Food Brands says in its lawsuit.
Cook County Circuit Judge Moshe Jacobius on Monday issued a temporary restraining order in favor of Grupo Premier and Food Brands, instructing Quesos Finos to not sell or move the cheese.
"This is not a ruling on the merits" of the case, said Kenneth Vanko, a Clingen Callow McLean lawyer representing the plaintiffs. A hearing on the fate of the cheese is set for later this month.
Food Brands says in its lawsuit that it learned of the alleged footsie being played between the importer and Quesos Finos when, "in a fit of conscience," the importer supplied Grupo Premier with an array of documents — including invoices, wire information from his personal account and emails — about the separate deal between Quesos Finos and the cheesemaker. The importer is mentioned in the lawsuit but not named as a defendant.
Quesos Finos didn’t respond to requests for comment.