Codfather vessel captain sentenced for thwarting Coast Guard inspection

Published on
November 30, 2018

A former captain of one of Carlos “Codfather” Rafael’s fishing boats has been sentenced in Boston federal court for interfering with a U.S. Coast Guard vessel inspection off the coast of Massachusetts.

South Portland, Maine’s Thomas D. Simpson, 57, was sentenced to two years of probation – with the first four months to be served in home confinement with electronic monitoring – in U.S. District Court this week, after pleading guilty in August 2018 to one count of destruction or removal of property subject to seizure and inspection. Simpson was also ordered by the court to pay a USD 15,000 (EUR 13,195) fine, according to a report from WBSM

The former captain of Rafael-owned fishing vessel Bulldog, Simpson and his crew were engaging in commercial fishing practices on 31 May, 2014, when the U.S. Coast Guard came onboard to conduct a routine inspection of the boat and its equipment. 

As the Bulldog’s fishing nets were deployed in the water at the time, a Coast Guard Boarding Officer approached Simpson in the boat’s wheelhouse and asked him to haul in the nets to be inspected. However, instead of activating an electronic winch to haul the nets in, Simpson let out more of the cable. Upon realizing this, the officer on duty instructed Simpson to desist and haul the net in, but the captain ignored the order and continued to let out the cable until the net became detached from the Bulldog and sank.

A salvage company was hired for USD 15,000 (EUR 13,195) by the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to retrieve the net, which was found to have three distinct and separate layers – a violation of commercial fishing regulations. 

Simpson’s conduct during the incident put both Coast Guard officials and the Bulldog’s crew at risk, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said.

“Mr. Simpson’s conduct was careless and dangerous. When he ordered the ship’s nets cut loose, rather than simply reeled in, the steel cables securing the net swung violently across the boat, endangering not only the Coast Guard boarding team but Simpson’s own crew,” said Lelling. “My office is committed to prosecuting those who impede federal inspections, especially when they jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officers and bystanders.”

The Bulldog, which had been seized by the U.S. federal government in connection to Rafael’s case in October 2017, was ordered to be released to B & D Fishing Corp. and Rafael’s wife, Conceicao, as part of a settlement agreement reached on 23 November. The Bulldog, which is valued at USD 661,350 (EUR 558,650) and holds eight associated permits, will not be managed or operated by Carlos Rafael upon release, per the terms in the settlement agreement. 

Rafael is currently serving out a 46-month prison sentence for his role in falsifying fishing quota, tax evasion, and bulk cash smuggling. In addition to criminal charges, Rafael also faces a civil administrative case from NOAA, which calls for the revocation of 17 operator permits held by Rafael’s captains, as well as the settlement of civil penalties amounting to more than USD 3 million (EUR 2.79 million).

Image by Flickr user Benji2505

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