NOAA: Codfather will never fish again

John Sladewski/AP file photo/The federal government announced Monday that it has settled its civil case against Carlos Rafael, a fishing magnate known as The Codfather, saying he will never be allowed to return to U.S. fisheries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finally is done with Carlos Rafael, even if the federal penal system is not.

NOAA Fisheries announced Monday it has settled its civil case against Rafael and his fishing captains, closing out the final legal case that led to the downfall and incarceration of the man who used to be known as the Codfather.

"Today's settlement of the government's civil case against Carlos Rafael accomplishes NOAA's chief objective of permanently removing Mr. Rafael from participation in the federal fisheries," Chris Oliver, NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator, said in a statement. "Mr. Rafael's forced divestiture and permanent ban from commercial fishing is a fitting end to this case, on top of the criminal sentence he is already serving."

Rafael, 67, remains incarcerated at Devens FMC in central Massachusetts, with 19 months remaining on the 46-month sentence imposed on Sept. 25, 2017, after his conviction on falsifying fishing records to exceed fishing quotas, false labeling of groundfish landings, conspiracy, tax evasion and bulk smuggling.

The Codfather was arrested by federal agents on Feb. 26, 2016, following a sting operation in which undercover federal agents posed as members of the Russian mob interested in buying Rafael's then-sprawling seafood empire.

It was during his recorded conversations with the undercover agents that Rafael spilled the details of his illegal activities that ultimately led to his arrest and the dissolution of the New Bedford-based Northeast Fishing Sector IX that hosted his vessels.

Rafael, as part of his criminal conviction, also was hit with $300,000 in fines and restitution — including $109,000 to the Internal Revenue Service — as well as three years of supervised release after leaving federal prison.

Under the civil settlement, Rafael must pay more than $3 million in penalties, relinquish the seafood permit issued to his Carlos Seafood business by Sept. 1 and permanently cease all commercial fishing — except for scalloping — by Dec. 31. His scalloping operations, which were not part of his criminal case, must be halted by next March 31.

Oliver said the settlement "clears the way for Mr. Rafael's fishing assets that have been tied up in litigation to be returned to productive use."

Rafael, who already forfeited two of his fishing vessels as part of the criminal case, is required to sell his remaining vessels and permits. He will be allowed to retain the proceeds.

The settlement also includes suspensions of operating permits for 17 of Rafael's captains. They will range from 20 to 200 days, based on the "number and severity of each captain's violations."

The captains will be prohibited from boarding any federally permitted vessel for the life of the suspension. The captains also must serve probationary periods ranging from one to three years — again based on the number and severity of their violations — and agree to be subjected to "additional monitoring and reporting."

NOAA Fisheries said they would be permanently stripped of their operator permits and permanently banned from commercial fishing if found "liable for for an intentional or reckless violation during their period of probation."

"This settlement also holds accountable the vessel captains who now face suspensions, probationary periods, additional monitoring and reporting requirements, and a the threat of a lifetime ban from the industry if they intentionally violate federal fisheries again," Oliver said. "It also serves as a reminder that no one is exempt from the rules."

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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