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March 4, 2013

City man 'pardoned' for '80s fish scam

A former Gloucester fish processing company executive who pleaded guilty and served federal prison time stemming from a 1980s fishing industry scam is one of 17 people from across the country to be granted a presidential pardon by President Obama.

The list of pardons announced late Friday by The White House include James A. Bordinaro of Gloucester, who had been general manager of Gloucester’s Empire Fish Company, served 12 months in prison and paid a $55,000 fine for the scheme to illegally launder Canadian seafood. Bordinaro essentially admitted to defrauding the Defense Department by rigging government service bids and passing off Canadian-caught fish as American-landed seafood during the period between 1981 and 1989.

Bordinaro was among roughly a half dozen New England fishing industry executives who pleaded guilty to such scams, according to a 1991 report. All were charged with falsifying documents in their contracts with the Defense Personnel Support Center of Defense certifying that Canadian fish were caught by U.S. fishermen in U.S. waters, a requirement of all Defense-related government contracts.

The White House announcement Friday indicated only that Bordinaro’s sentence had been for a conspiracy to restrain, suppress and eliminate competition “in violation of the Sherman Act and conspiracy to submit false statements.” The Sherman Act prohibits business activities that federal regulators deem anti-competitive, and is basis for most antitrust litigation by the federal government

Bordinaro could not be reached for comment.

But according to federal court documents, Bordinaro, his Empire Fish Company, and one of his co-conspirators — identified as Francis J. O’Hara of F.J. O’Hara and Sons, Inc. — the scam began when began discussing and fixing Defense Personnal Support bids with other fish processors sometime around 1981.

“Each week, Bordinaro and O’Hara conferred by telephone. The two men would agree which company would be the designated low bidder and what the low bid would be,” the federal case document reads. “The companies would then submit bids to DPSC on their designated items at the set prices and would submit complementary bids, that is, intentionally high and unsuccessful bids, on those items allotted to other co-conspirators. This intra-company conspiracy continued until September 1989.”

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