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Carlos Rafael ordered to pay NOAA $3 million to settle smuggling case

Former fishing vessel captain Carlos Rafael has been ordered to pay the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a $3,010,633 (€2,711,677) civil penalty, and permanently cease all fishing.

NOAA said Monday New Bedford fishing magnate Rafael, known as the "Codfather," will also relinquish the seafood dealer permit issued to Carlos Seafood by Sept. 1, permanently cease all commercial fishing, except for scalloping, by Dec. 31 and cease scallop fishing by March 31.

Rafael must sell all limited access federal fishing permits and fishing vessels he owns or controls, by Dec. 31, 2020, through transactions reviewed and approved by NOAA, the government agency said.

Rafael is serving a 46-month sentence after pleading guilty last year to falsifying fish quotas, false labeling of fish species, conspiracy, smuggling large amounts of cash out of the country and tax evasion.

In 2018, a federal judge ordered the seizure of four of his fishing vessels and their fishing permits as part of a plea deal in the criminal case against Rafael, once the owner of one of the nation’s largest fishing fleets.

"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 federal fisheries," Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. "The settlement also clears the way for Mr. Rafael’s fishing assets that have been tied up in this litigation to be returned to productive use. 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."

In addition, 17 of Rafael’s former fishing vessel captains are required to serve suspensions of their operator permits, during which they cannot be aboard a federally permitted vessel while it is at sea or offloading. The periods of suspension range between 20 and 200 days and are based on the number and severity of each captain’s violations.

The captains also must serve probationary periods ranging between one and three years, and permanently relinquish their operator permit and be banned from commercial fishing if they are found liable for an intentional or reckless violation during their period of probation.

In 2017, Rafael pled guilty to 28 federal charges related to the management of his company, including falsifying fish quotas, mislabeling fish, conspiracy, and tax evasion. In a civil case filed in January 2018, NOAA called for the revocation of 42 federal fishing permits held by Rafael.

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