Carlos Rafael settles Coast Guard oil violations as feds auction two of his boats

Carlos Rafael, the longtime New Bedford industry figure now serving a 46-month sentence in federal prison, settled water pollution complaints for USD 511,000 (EUR 460,500) in civil penalties, as the U.S. Marshals Service offered two of his boats at auction.

Rafael, manager Stephanie Rafael DeMello, and captain Carlos Pereira agreed to the penalty and making improvements to the Vila Nova do Corvo II. The Coast Guard charged that the vessel discharged oily bilge waste overboard at sea while harvesting scallops and that its used fuel filters were likewise dumped over the side.

Rafael was arrested in February 2016 after federal investigators, posing as Russian immigrants with organized crime connections, recorded Rafael bragging about how he routinely faked landing reports and fish tickets to evade quota limits. He eventually pleaded guilty to falsifying landing reports, fish labeling and other records, tax evasion, and cash smuggling.

In the original sentencing, Rafael had been ordered to forfeit four vessels to the government, but a final settlement allowed two of those, the Bulldog and Southern Crusader II, to be released to his wife Conceicao Rafael and other New Bedford fishermen in shared ownership.

As lawyers for Rafael and the Coast Guard were settling the pollution case, federal marshals were offering for auction the other two forfeited western rig draggers from Rafael’s fleet.

The Olivia & Rafael, built in 1973, was offered at a bid opener of USD 690,000 (EUR 621,850) – including the vessel’s lucrative suite of fisheries permits, with black sea bass, lobster, monkfish, Northeast multispecies, scup, loligo squid, and Atlantic mackerel on the list.

The Lady Patricia, built in 1977, likewise comes with those permits, offered at USD 510,000 (EUR 459,630).

The pollution complaint, filed in April 2019 with U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, alleged the defendants were responsible for discharging contents of the engine room bilge – mixture of fuel, lubricating oils, water and other wastes – into the ocean instead of retaining the waste onboard for legal disposal.

Coast Guard boarding teams also found the vessel was in violation of a pollution control regulation that requires dedicated piping to properly transfer oily bilge waste to a shoreside facility for disposal.

As part of the settlement, the company Vila Nova do Corvo II Inc. and company managers Rafael and DeMello will pay civil penalties of USD 500,000 (EUR 450,600), and the captain of the vessel will pay a penalty of USD 11,000 (EUR 9,913). The consent decree approved by the court also requires repairing the boat to reduce the generation of oily bilge water, and ensure it can retain oily bilge for the full length of fishing trips.

Crew members and managers must be trained on proper handling of oily wastes; document all oil and oily waste transfers on and off of the vessels, including documenting proper disposal of engine room bilge water at a shore reception facility; and submit compliance reports to the Coast Guard.

“This case displayed the exceptional joint efforts of Sector Southeastern New England and the Department of Justice, in holding those who pollute our waters accountable,” said Captain Chris J. Glander, commander of Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in announcing the settlement.

Photo courtesy of PO2 Shannon Young/U.S. Coast Guard


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