Carlos “the Codfather” Rafael will plead guilty to evading fishing quotas and smuggling profits to Portugal as part of a settlement he reached with the government, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts.
Rafael, New Bedford’s king quota holder with investments in the New England groundfish and scallop fisheries, was arrested in February 2016 after a sting operation conducted by the the Internal Revenue Service uncovered an alleged bookkeeping scam. Rafael was accused of falsifying federal fish tickets by renaming valuable fish on tight quotas — like American plaice, yellowtail or gray sole — and selling them as more common species like haddock pollock.
“The thing is, when the guy (NMFS dockside inspector) disappears, that’s when we got a chance to make that fish disappear and the fish disappears under a different name,” Rafael told the agents, according to one IRS affidavit. “Becomes one of the names where we have a lot of quota, that doesn’t make a difference. I can call them haddock. This year I’ll have 15 million pounds of haddock (quota). So I can call any son of a bitch haddock if the bastards (inspectors) are not there. I rename them.”
Rafael was initially scheduled to appear in federal court on March 20, but his appearance was then rescheduled for March 16. A third schedule change was announced by the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office on March 16, and Rafael is now expected to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Boston at 2:30 p.m. on March 30. He faces one count of conspiracy, 25 counts of lying to federal fishing regulators and one count of bulk cash smuggling.
According to the indictment, a conviction could have resulted in Rafael’s forfeiture of all boats and equipment used in the offenses, which included 13 boats.
The U.S. Attorney’s office has provided no further details regarding the plea deal.