GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 30, 2013

Ex-AG clears fishing group, spurs questions

A 48-page report on a four-month investigation by a former state attorney general has found allegations of wrongdoing by Vito Giacalone in his role heading the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund “without merit” or with no “credible basis.”

But in clearing Giacalone of any taint, the report by former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger confirmed finding that the New Bedford brothers, Richard and Raymond Canastra, made a $100,000 loan to a Gloucester fisherman to take his business to the Canastra’s auction outlet in Gloucester, on property owned by Giacalone and operated by his three sons, from another one on the Gloucester waterfront.

Questions of collusion between Giacalone, the Canastras and Carols Raphael, a major fishing business owner in New Bedford, have been swirling in both ports for more than a year, sparked by a letter claiming Giacalone, the Canastras and Raphael — alpha figures in the New England fishing industry — had effectively begun functioning as a “cartel.”

In his report, Harshbarger wrote that Gloucester attorney Paul Muniz made a similar claim about financial inducements to fishermen to leave auction acquired by Kristian Kristiansen from the Ciulla family, whose pyrrhic victory against federal fisheries law enforcers in 2010 and 2011 was achieved with Muniz as attorney for their Gloucester Seafood Display Auction.

Muniz also represented the Ciulla family in interviews during the Harshbarger probe and before the Ciullas sought bankruptcy protection and sold the business to Kristiansen in September 2011 — months after they and 10 other fishing businesses were given a cabinet level apology and reparations for prosecutorial harassment by the federal government.

The investigation and report released Tuesday, filled with compliments and praise for Giacalone, in one place noting that his many admirers consider him a “genius” of foresight, was commissioned and financed by the Preservation Fund. Fund officials would not disclose the price it paid for Harshbarger’s work.

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