Former BASE auction employees implicate owners in “Codfather” scandal

Two former employees of the Buyers and Sellers Exchange (BASE) in New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A. have alleged that the owners – brothers Raymond and Richard Canastra – were aware of and involved in falsifying quotas performed by the “Codfather” Carlos Rafael.

Rafael pleaded guilty in 2017 to falsifying fish quotas, tax evasion, and conspiracy in the wake of allegations he was connected to a criminal fishing scheme involving the evasion of fishing quotas and the smuggling of profits to Portugal. Following the criminal case, a civil case brought by NOAA ensued, which Rafael settled in August 2019.

Rafael’s arrest and criminal activity upset the balance of groundfishing in New Bedford as NOAA enacted a lengthy ban on all fishing activity, and landings plummeted as an extended fishing ban on 60 vessels lasted through July of 2018.

Since then, BASE has brought civil litigation against Rafael, which is still ongoing. In an affidavit from that case acquired by The Standard-Times,  two former BASE employees implicated the Canastras in Rafael’s activity.

According to the paper, two employees – Peter Medeiros and Nelson Couto – alleged that Raymond Canastra and Rafael tasked them with destroying and falsifying paperwork about the quantity and species of fish that were brought into the auction house. Medeiros, the former general manager from 2006 to 2018, alleged that the Canastra brothers told him to handle unloading Rafael’s boats differently from others, and to falsify species being unloaded.

Couto, as well, alleged that he as asked to perform illegal activities.

"If the fish was being sold to Carlos Seafood, but where the environmental police observed the unloading, I was instructed to place a small check mark on the BASE Packing slip/bill of lading so that the owners would know that they could not alter the numbers on that document after the fact," Couto wrote, according to The Standard-Times.

Lawyers for the Canastras declined to comment on the accusations, according to the paper.


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