Carlos Rafael, the longtime New Bedford industry figure now serving a 46-month sentence in federal prison, settled water pollution complaints for $511,000 in civil penalties, as the U.S. Marshals Service offered two of his boats at auction.

Rafael, manager Stephanie Rafael DeMello, and captain Carlos Pereira agreed to the penalty and making improvements to the Vila Nova do Corvo II. The Coast Guard charged that the vessel discharged oily bilge waste overboard at sea while harvesting scallops and that its used fuel filters were likewise dumped over the side.

Rafael pleaded guilty to falsifying landing reports, fish labeling and other records, tax evasion and cash smuggling. He was arrested in February 2016 after federal investigators, posing as Russian immigrants with sketchy organized crime connections, recorded Rafael bragging about how he routinely faked landing reports and fish tickets to evade quota limits.

In the original sentencing, Rafael had been ordered to forfeit four vessels to the government, but a final settlement allowed two of those, the Bulldog and Southern Crusader II, to be released to his wife Conceicao Rafael and other New Bedford fishermen in shared ownership.

As lawyers for Rafael and the Coast Guard were settling the pollution case, federal marshals were offering for auction the other two forfeited western rig draggers from Rafael’s fleet.

The 71’ x 22’ x 11’ Olivia & Rafael, built in 1973, was offered at a bid opener of $690,000 – including the vessel’s lucrative suite of fisheries permits, with black sea bass, lobster, monkfish, Northeast multispecies, scup, loligo squid and Atlantic mackerel on the list.

The 75’ x 22’ x 11’ Lady Patricia, built in 1977, likewise comes with those permits, offered at $510,000.

The pollution complaint, filed in April 2019 with U.S. District Court in Massachusetts alleged the defendants were responsible for discharging contents of the engine room bilge — mixture of fuel, lubricating oils, water and other wastes — into the ocean instead of retaining the waste onboard for legal disposal.

Coast Guard boarding teams also found the vessel was in violation of a pollution control regulation that requires dedicated piping to properly transfer oily bilge waste to a shoreside facility for disposal.

As part of the settlement, the company Vila Nova do Corvo II Inc. and company managers Rafael and DeMello will pay civil penalties of $500,000, and the captain of the vessel will pay a penalty of $11,000. The consent decree approved by the court also requires repairing the boat to reduce the generation of oily bilge water, and ensure it can retain oily bilge for the full length of fishing trips.

Crew members and managers must be trained on proper handling of oily wastes; document all oil and oily waste transfers on and off of the vessels, including documenting proper disposal of engine room bilge water at a shore reception facility; and submit compliance reports to the Coast Guard.

“This case displayed the exceptional joint efforts of Sector Southeastern New England and the Department of Justice, in holding those who pollute our waters accountable,” said Captain Chris J. Glander, commander of Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England in Woods Hole, Mass., in announcing the settlement.


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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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