BOSTON – The owner of one of the largest commercial fishing businesses in the United States was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Boston for falsifying records to the federal government to evade federal fishing quotas and smuggling a portion of his business’ proceeds to Portugal to avoid U.S. taxation.
Carlos Rafael, 65, of Dartmouth, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young to 46 months in prison and three years of supervised release, during which time he is banned from working in the fishing industry. The Court also ordered Rafael to pay a fine of $200,000 and restitution to the U.S. Treasury of $108,929. Rafael may also be subject to forfeiture of a portion of his fishing fleet, but the Court held that issue for further consideration.
In March 2017, Rafael pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit offenses against the United States, 23 counts of false labeling and fish identification, two counts of falsifying federal records, one count of bulk cash smuggling, and one count of tax evasion. He was initially arrested and charged in February 2016.
Rafael, the owner of Carlos Seafood Inc., based in New Bedford, Mass., owned 32 fishing vessels through independent corporate shells and 44 permits, which amounted to one of the largest commercial fishing businesses in the United States.
“Mr. Rafael profited at the expense of other hard-working commercial fishermen by falsifying records so he could keep fishing while they were sidelined,” said Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb. “The Court accurately described Mr. Rafael’s actions as systematic corruption. He will now face the consequences of violating federal laws designed to sustain the New England fishery.”
“The significant sentence imposed by the Court today reflects the profound impact of Mr. Rafael’s long-running criminal scheme,” said Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston. “As a fishing industry leader, Mr. Rafael’s false catch reports and tax evasion scheme gave him an unfair advantage, to the detriment of honest fishermen and our precious ocean resources. IRS-CI is proud of this remarkable investigative team, and the important role our undercover agents played in bringing “the Codfather” to justice.”
“As the Nation’s federal maritime law enforcement agency, the Coast Guard has a critical role in enforcing federal fisheries regulations to protect our precious marine resources, promote sustainable fish stocks, and ensure a level playing field for all the honest fishermen,” said Rear Admiral Steven D. Poulin, Commander, First Coast Guard District. “I am proud of the Coast Guard's partnership with the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to help bring Mr. Rafael’s illegal operations to a halt.”
“Mr. Rafael’s criminal sentence is the result of excellent collaboration among federal partners, and reflects NOAA’s deep commitment to investigate fisheries violations and bring wrongdoers to justice,” said Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries.
The charges arose out of an undercover investigation in which federal agents posed as organized crime figures interested in buying Carlos Seafood. From 2012 to January 2016, Rafael routinely lied to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about the quantity and species of fish his boats caught in order to evade federal quotas designed to guarantee the sustainability of certain fish species.
During that period, Rafael misreported to NOAA approximately 782,812 pounds of fish, telling NOAA that the fish was haddock, or some other abundant species subject to high quotas, when in fact the fish was cod, sole, or other species subject to strict quotas. After submitting false records to federal regulators, Rafael sold much of the fish to a wholesale business in New York City in exchange for duffle bags of cash. During meetings with the undercover agents, Rafael said that in his most recent dealings with the New York buyer he received $668,000 in cash. Rafael smuggled at least some of that cash out of the United States to his native Portugal, hiding it there to evade federal taxation on that revenue.
Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb; IRS-CI SAC Garland; Rear Admiral Poulin; and Acting Assistant Administrator Rauch made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling of Weinreb’s Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.