Ventola prison time could cause downfall of National Fish and Seafood

Published on
April 26, 2018

The incarceration of Jack Ventola, the former president of Gloucester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based National Fish and Seafood accused of tax fraud, could cause the demise of National Fish and Seafood, his attorneys argue.

In a recently-filed document in U.S. District Court in Boston, Massachusetts, where Ventola will be sentenced on Friday, 27 April, attorney Derrelle M. Janey with Gottlieb & Janey, as well as National Fish and Seafood executives and Ventola’s family and friends, asked the judge to consider probation — not prison time.

“The alternative sentence of incarceration, depriving NFS of Mr. Ventola’s day-to-day leadership, would likely cause the demise of NFS,” Janey wrote. “This view is held not only by employees, but by the majority shareholder, Pacific Andes International Holdings, which has submitted a letter to the court pleading for Mr. Ventola’s continued ability to work for the company. 

Ventola “singularly possesses the experience, knowledge, and employee leadership required for NFS’ survival,” Jessie Ng, managing director and executive director of Pacific Andes, wrote in the letter. “Jack’s continued employment as a senior executive of National Fish is, in my opinion, essential to our efforts to turn that company around. Furthermore, without Jack’s presence at such a critical juncture, I am deeply concerned about the future of National Fish. The very livelihood of the many employees at National Fish is dependent on the future of National Fish being secured.”

Ventola was arrested in late 2015 for allegedly failing to pay taxes on more than USD 2 million (EUR 1.7 million) in income earned between 2006 and 2009. Bruno’s sentencing is scheduled for 7 May.

And, even though the U.S. government claims that Ventola has defrauded Pacific Andes and NFS, Pacific Andes submitted a letter to the court stating that because his promised repayment fully addresses Pacific Andes’ concerns, there are no outstanding issues with money owed to the company, Janey wrote.

In fact, Ventola did not intentionally defraud the government, according to Janey. He simply signed the tax returns prepared by his accountant, Michael Bruno.

“The nature of the relationship between Mr. Bruno and Mr. Ventola was such that Mr. Bruno, by his own admission, hardly reviewed the tax returns with Mr. Ventola and, based on the relationship, Mr. Ventola did not believe he needed to ask questions of Mr. Bruno about the intricacies of the tax returns," Janey wrote. 

In addition, Janey submitted letters of support from several of Ventola’s family and friends, describing him as a man who goes out of a way to help others and his community.

“I have seen Jack provide financial as well as emotional support for friends, family and employees who [have] difficulties. I personally received emotional support from him during a difficult time .... I know that Jack's mother lived with him until her death and he took very good care of her,” a former employee wrote to the court.

The U.S. government is asking the court to sentence Ventola to three years in prison, followed by 12 months of supervised release.

The government counters' Pacific Andes' executives' plea that Ventola is essential to the future success of National Fish.

"Pacific Andes’ plea for leniency is, on its face, motivated by a desire to protect its investment in National Fish...The government is sympathetic and understands that collateral consequences sometimes appropriately factor into a court’s sentencing determination (though the court need not accept Ng’s projections about those consequences; National Fish could yet be acquired by another company, as it was by Pacific Andes in the 1990s). But it is tax fraud, and the appropriate sentence for that crime, that is before the court, not the viability of Pacific Andes’s investment in National Fish," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian A. Pérez-Daple said. "While the potential collateral consequences to Pacific Andes may be relevant to the court’s determination, they should not be given undue weight."

Contributing Editor

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