A confessed oyster thief was sentenced to two years in the Barnstable House of Correction Friday. According to a release from the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary A. Nickerson sentenced 37-year-old Michael E. Bryant to two years on one of eight charges--shell fishing in a contained area.
On the other seven charges of shell fishing without a commercial license and six counts of larceny of property over $250, Bryant was given ten years probation.
Bryant pleaded guilty to all charges, according to the DA's Office.
Police began investigating in 2013 after several oyster grant owners on the Mid Cape reported the theft of thousands of oysters, according to the release. On October 25, 2013, Bryant was observed raking oysters in a closed area in Yarmouth.
The next day, officers followed Bryant to Joe's Lobster Mart in Sandwich where he parked near the loading dock. Officers stopped Bryant as he left the shop, at which time he reportedly gave his statement to police. During the investigation, authorities reportedly seized oysters and harvesting equipment from Bryant's home.
In addition to the two-year jail sentence and ten-year probation, Judge Nickerson ordered that restitution be paid to the victims. The amount was estimated at $25,000 and will be finalized at a later hearing.
The owner of Joe's Lobster Mart, Joseph A. Vaudo, 62, pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, directly and willfully misleading a police officer or investigator who is furthering a criminal investigation and failure or refusal to file statistical reports of wholesale and retail shellfish dealers. Vaudo was ordered to pay fines and court costs, but was not ordered to pay restitution or given any jail time.