Grijalva and Pingree: Commerce, Justice Departments Must Take Stronger Enforcement Actions against ‘Codfather’ to Deter Pirate Fishing

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) sent a letter today to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging them to penalize Carlos Rafael – the notorious ‘Codfather’ of New Bedford, Mass. – for violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). While Rafael pled guilty and was sentenced for violations of the Lacey Act, he has not been charged under the MSA, the flagship domestic fisheries law that allows for forfeiture of assets and permits other than those directly linked to a specific crime, as well as additional fines.

Grijalva and Pingree also thanked DOJ for its recent decision to ask for reconsideration of the inadequate forfeiture ruling issued in the Lacey Act case earlier this month, and urged the Department to have its Antitrust Division scrutinize any sale of Mr. Rafael’s assets. Recent reports have shown that a deal is in the works that would allow Rafael to sell his assets for tens of millions of dollars to a large fish auction house in New Bedford, perpetuating the problems of excessive consolidation and vertical integration that made Rafael’s crimes possible.

“Congress gave the Secretaries clear authority to completely remove bad actors from the fishing industry. If they don’t use that authority here, it will send a clear signal to Codfather wannabes that the Magnuson Act is a joke,” Grijalva said. “This administration claims to be all about law and order – this is a chance to prove it.”

This follows Grijalva’s letters to Sessions and Ross last month, which highlighted their departments’ authority to levy civil penalties and pursue prosecution of Rafael’s crimes. Today’s letter reemphasizes that a lenient sentencing fails to deter future similar illegal activity and fails to make up for the significant economic damage caused by Rafael and paid for by law-abiding fishermen. 

“Maine’s fishing communities have sacrificed greatly to rebuild the fisheries that their livelihoods depend on, while Carlos Rafael took advantage of a broken system to make millions at their expense,” said Pingree. “Our fishermen deserve better and this is our best chance in a long time to right the ship.”

The letter also points out that the Administration can bring new opportunities to New England by redistributing Rafael’s assets to ensure an improved, sustainable future for the entire groundfish fleet. The millions of dollars of potential revenue from fines and forfeitures could speed the transition to more sustainable, accountable fisheries in the Region.

You can view the full letter here: http://bit.ly/2gK2oNQ

Press Contact

Diane Padilla (Grijalva), (202) 225-6065 or (202) 306-1333                                                                

Victoria Bonney (Pingree), (207) 774-5019