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February 9, 2013

Probe cites wrongs by NOAA prosecutors

The special investigator commissioned by the Department of Commerce has concluded that the same two attorneys in NOAA’s Gloucester office who extracted an excessive settlement from a New Bedford scallop fishing business owner in 2005 did the same thing years earlier to a pair of New Bedford fish processors using coercive methods “with an intention to intimidate.”

A detailed narrative of how NOAA’s Gloucester-based enforcement and litigation attorneys Charles R. “Chuck” Juliand and James “Mitch” MacDonald improperly manipulated the system of fisheries enforcement law to drive Thomas R. F. Riley and his partner, Dennis Saluti, in Sea Rich Seafoods and another company to pay a $1 million cash penalty plus the loss of business licenses and fishing permits for what were found to be exaggerated charges is detailed in the 554-page report to the acting commerce secretary by special investigator Charles B. Swartwood III.

In releasing a redacted version of Swartwood’s second set of case studies into allegations of NOAA Fisheries law enforcement excesses, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank on Dec. 14 made reparations to Riley and Saluti of $373,500, the amount recommended by Swartwood.

According to the report, the abuse and manipulation of the law in the prosecution of the Sea Rich case occurred in 1997. But Riley and Saluti’s complaint of proprietorial misconduct came to light only with the decision by then Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, based on Swartwood’s initial report in May 2011, to commission an additional study of industry complaints that NOAA law enforcers harassed and intimidated fishermen and shore-side businesses.

Juliand and MacDonald were also the enforcement attorneys in the prosecution of New Bedford scalloper Larry Yacubian, a case that extended from 2000-2005 and ended only after Yacubian and his wife divested themselves of most of their assets including her ancestral farm to pay a $430,000 fine and legal fees.

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