Carlos Rafael, the 'Codfather' of New Bedford, Massachusetts. (Photo: mainecoastfishermen.org)
Codfather to forfeit USD 2.59 million and surrender 34 groundfish permits
Friday, October 13, 2017, 01:00 (GMT + 9)
Seafood magnate Carlos Rafael, nicknamed The Codfather, must forfeit his USD 2.59 million ownership interest in four vessels and surrender 34 federal groundfish permits involved in his fishing scam before going to prison, as a federal judge has ruled.
US District Court Judge William G. Young’s ruling does not include the vessels 88-foot Athena and the 81-foot Hera II to the list of forfeited vessels because the two boats "have scalloping permits and scalloping is not involved in this wrongdoing."
In September, Judge Young sentenced Rafael to 46 months in federal prison, fined him USD 200,000 and ordered three years of supervised release following Rafael's exit from prison.
Rafael also is barred from operating in the commercial fishing industry while incarcerated and during his supervised release.
Judge Young imposed the sentence after Rafael pleaded guilty in March to 23 counts of falsifying fishing quotas, bulk cash smuggling and tax evasion as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
The judge’s ruling resolves one issue — the level and value of Rafael's forfeitures — and will serve as the starting pistol for a flurry of government activity to determine the fate of the 34 surrendered permits.
Carlos Rafael and the end of the pirate fleet. Photo: Ben Martens/Maine Coast Fishermen's Association
Another issue to be settled is the question of whether the federal government will approve Rafael's USD 93 million sale of 28 vessels, 42 fishing permits and other assets to Richard and Ray Canastra, owners and operators of the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction in New Bedford.
In this regard, NOAA Regional Administrator John K. Bullard said at the New England Fishery Management Council meetings in September that NOAA would not determine the fate of the surrendered permits until Young ruled on the forfeiture package.
"After careful consideration, the court rules that forfeiture of assets valued at approximately 10 times the maximum guidelines fine, and possibly a bit more, is within the limit of constitutional proportionality in the circumstances of this case," Judge Young wrote in his 16-page ruling.
The ruling also states that Rafael owns and operates one of the largest groundfish fleets in the United States and, for decades, he had continuously ignored and circumvented the regulatory restrictions on commercial fishing applicable to all fishermen.
Young went on to state that Rafael's business strategy was a "systematic fraud" to land more fish without having to buy additional quota on the secondary market.
"He perpetrated one of the largest misreporting schemes identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration," Young wrote. "While federal quotas for groundfish dropped over the years, Rafael's illegal catch grew, which ultimately gave him a competitive advantage over other hard-working, honest fishermen."
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