NEW BEDFORD — Carlos Rafael must forfeit four fishing vessels with an appraised value of $2.2 million and “34 permits” as ordered by District Judge William Young on Wednesday.
In a 16-page Memorandum and Order Concerning Forfeiture, Young described the methods he used in determining forfeiture, which includes the “Bull dog (eight permits)", the “Olivia and Rafaela (11 permits), the “Lady Patricia (four permits)” and the “Southern Crusader II (11 permits).”
The number of permits the government will strip from Rafael is more complicated than what the court document indicates.
The Standard-Times spoke with numerous people within the commercial fishing industry and the number of 34 permits spawned some confusion. The consensus within the industry was that the forfeiture would include four vessels and four permits, which carried 34 endorsements. An endorsement attached to a permit specifies a species a fishermen can catch. Endorsements are valuable because they allow fishermen to catch limited quota fish.
The confusion spread when public records couldn’t confirm 34 endorsements with the four vessels.
Questions extend beyond the four vessels ordered to be forfeited, too:The future of Rafael’s captains aboard the groundfish vessels remains unknown. NOAA’s civil action against Rafael needs to be resolved. A potential sale including Rafael’s entire fleet to Richard and Ray Canastra also remains on the table. Richard Canastra declined to comment when asked about the deal Wednesday.
After Young’s order, Rafael still possesses at least 24 boats and 35 permits.
The government requested forfeiture of 13 vessels and their permits. They were all associated in Rafael's March’s plea agreement involving 28 counts of falsifying fishing quotas, bulk cash smuggling and tax evasion.
In the end, Rafael will have to surrender only four of the 13 vessels and accompanying permits.
The penalty is in addition to Young sentencing Rafael to 46 months in prison and 3 years supervised release; he also must pay a $200,000 fine. He is scheduled to report to prison Nov. 6.
Young had withheld making a judgment regarding forfeiture until Wednesday.
The judge didn’t include any vessels associated with scalloping. He specifically mentioned excluding the “Athena” and “Hera II” because both have scalloping permits.
Young initially hesitated to issue a judgement regarding forfeiture last month during sentencing because he said he feared seizing all 13 vessels would impinge on the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment.
In his order, Young ruled that forfeiture assets valued up to approximately 10 times the maximum guidelines fine is “within the limits of constitutional proportionality.” The maximum guidelines associated with Rafael’s charges was $200,000.
Young also pointed out that the value fell below the $2.8 million cash forfeiture the defense argued for in place of a forfeiture of vessels.
Young showed little sympathy for Rafael in his order.
He said the fisherman known as the “Codfather” impaired the ability of regulators to determine appropriate quota to set. Young said the actions occurred “for decades,” which “ultimately gave him a competitive advantage over other hard-working, honest fishermen.”
Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.