Andrew Cohen, the agent formerly in charge of law enforcement in the Northeast and the linchpin for actions against the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction that drew a judicial rebuke, has informed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of his plans to resign, informed sources told the Times.
The sources said details of Cohen's departure after 23 years on the job had not been settled.
He leaves an undefined position paying him in excess of $123,000 a year and departs while actions against law enforcement personnel and NOAA enforcement and litigation lawyers remain undetermined, but one senior NOAA official told the Times that "discipline" of some sort was probable, but prosecutions were considered unlikely.
NOAA law enforcement was the subject of a 11/2-year long investigation by the Commerce Department inspector general, which brought to light abuse of the fund of fines to fishermen and businesses, and other excesses including an illegal entry to the Gloucester auction in the weeks before an armed raid in 2006.
The report of federal Inspector General Todd Zinser said agents were allowed to operate autonomously.
The NOAA's director of law enforcement, Dale J. Jones Jr., was placed on paid administrative leave last spring.
In 2009, Cohen issued a press release claiming Gloucester Seafood Display Auction would be closed down for violating a settlement of an earlier case, but the matter at the time was in federal court, and the judge chastised Cohen and NOAA for attempting to impose a penalty and publicize the action before the case was settled.
Cohen was relieved of his duties directing investigations and developing cases against fishermen and businesses in the Northeast — Maine through the Carolinas — earlier this month as the U.S. Commerce Department inspector general was releasing the final report on law enforcement excesses by Cohen's office directed at the auction.
Alan Risenhoover, acting director of NOAA law enforcement, said in a statement that Cohen would be working for him from Gloucester on international cases, but, at the same time, Risenhoover's office said it was also "reviewing (an) allegation" that Cohen for many years had used his government-issued cell phone to conduct an Internet garage sale.
At the time, Cohen did not return phone calls for comment from the Times, but told the Associated Press he was proud of the work he'd done, and he was certain he'd helped protect honest fishermen.
"He said the criticism has come mainly from people caught stealing who were upset the law was being enforced," AP reported.
Richard Gaines may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464 or firstname.lastname@example.org.