Carlos “Codfather” Rafael to leave commercial fishing behind after spending years in prison for his crimes

U.S. District Court Judge William Young sentenced former fishing magnate Carlos “Codfather” Rafael to 46 months of imprisonment on Monday, 25 September, for his role in orchestrating a quota and tax evasion scheme out of his New Bedford, Massachusetts-based business, Carlos Seafood.

Sentencing deliberation is continuing on Tuesday, 26 September as the court considers the fate of Rafael’s 13 groundfish vessels and permits, which have been listed for forfeiture as a tentative condition of his guilty plea.   

Rafael is scheduled to begin serving his prison sentence on 6 November, when he is expected to report to authorities at an assigned penal facility. His legal team has requested that Rafael serve out his prison sentence at Fort Devens, located between the Massachusetts towns of Ayer and Shirley. In addition to incarceration, Young also ordered three years of supervised release for Rafael, and mandated he pay a USD 200,000 (EUR 169,611) fine. Furthermore, Rafael has been barred by the court from having anything to do with the commercial fishing industry following his prison term and subsequent supervision period. 

The deliberate, corrupt nature of Rafael’s crimes factored heavily into the sentencing terms, Young explained on Monday. 

“This was not stupid. This was corrupt. This was a corrupt course of action from start to finish,” Young said to Rafael, as reported by Southcoast Today. “[It was] designed to benefit you. To line your pockets. That’s what it was, and that’s why the court has sentenced you as it has.”

The “gravest concerns” regarding the constitutionality of seizing Rafael’s groundfish fleet and permits – valued between USD 27 million (EUR 22 million) and USD 30 million (EUR 25 million) – prompted Young to proceed with sentencing without a conclusion regarding forfeiture. 

“I have grave doubts given the value of the vessels and permits,” Young told the court. 

Young debated the possibility of a partial forfeiture, and made clear that regardless of what he may decide in the matter of seizure, he has no authority to rule on the final fate of the permits. 

“That’s an executive agency function,” Young said. 

Young plans to make his decision surrounding the 13 groundfish vessels and permits as soon as possible. According to New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, the best case scenario for the region would be for Rafael to sell his entire fleet to a buyer. Such a scenario may already be playing out: Rafael signed a memorandum of agreement with potential purchasers Richard and Ray Canastra last week, a deal that would see his groundfish fleet sold for USD 16.3 million (EUR 13.5 million). The Canastras are the owners of the Buyers and Sellers Exchange (BASE), a New Bedford-based seafood auction firm. However, not everyone involved in the New England fishing community agrees with the stance that the permits should remain entirely in New Bedford.

Rafael’s lawyer, William Kettlewell, read a statement on behalf of his client before sentencing was officially handed down on Monday, in which the 65-year-old Rafael refers to his illegal scheme as “the stupidest thing I ever did.” In the letter, Rafael also claimed he committed his crimes to help financially support Carlos Seafood’s employees. 

“I just hope whatever I get doesn’t hurt the people on the waterfront,” Rafael wrote. “They don’t deserve that.”


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