Judge rules against government over Codfather vessels as Congressmen call for more fines

The judge residing over the Carlos “Codfather” Rafael case denied the United States government’s request to overturn forfeiture of Rafael’s fishing vessels last week, narrowing down the number of vessels and permits eligible for seizure from the 13 to four. 

While the government wanted Rafael to forfeit all 13 vessels and permits associated with his guilty plea in the cash smuggling and tax evasion case, Judge William Young ordered the forfeiture of only four vessels and their accompanying permits.

The government said that the court disregarded the maximum possible fine of USD 250,000 (EUR 215,507) when making a decision on the forfeiture, and that the value of the 13 vessels and permits are approximately 10 times the maximum fine under sentencing guidelines, according to a South Coast Today article.

As Judge Young handed down his sentence for the disgraced Carlos Seafoods owner, U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) urged Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions to penalize Rafael for violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). While Rafael pled guilty and was sentenced for violations of the Lacey Act, he has not been charged under the MSA, the representatives said in a letter to Ross and Sessions.

“Maine’s fishing communities have sacrificed greatly to rebuild the fisheries that their livelihoods depend on, while Carlos Rafael took advantage of a broken system to make millions at their expense,” Pingree said in a statement. “Our fishermen deserve better and this is our best chance in a long time to right the ship.”

Grijalva and Pingree also thanked DOJ for asking for a reconsideration of the forfeiture of the fishing vessels and urged the agency to have its Antitrust Division scrutinize any sale of Rafael’s assets. 

"Recent reports have shown that a deal is in the works that would allow Rafael to sell his assets for tens of millions of dollars to a large fish auction house in New Bedford, perpetuating the problems of excessive consolidation and vertical integration that made Rafael’s crimes possible,” the legislators wrote.

Another potential accomplice in connection to Rafael’s smuggling scheme was indicted by a federal grand jury last week as well. Jamie Melo, a captain with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, received the indictment for allegedly helping Rafael smuggle USD 50,000 (EUR 43,102) worth of cash into Portugal. Melo was arrested in August and was suspended without pay from the sheriff’s office, according to a South Coast Today article.

Antonio Freitas, a former sheriff’s deputy with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, was convicted by a federal jury of bulk cash smuggling and structuring the export of U.S. currency in July. 


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