Sheriff's deputy convicted in scheme to smuggle illegal fishing profits abroad

Jul 19, 2017

A Bristol County sheriff’s deputy was convicted on July 19 by a federal jury in Boston of smuggling the profits of an over-fishing scheme to Portugal.

Antonio Freitas, 47, of Taunton, a sheriff’s deputy with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and a long-time Task Force Officer with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was convicted of one count of bulk cash smuggling and one count of structuring the export of U.S. currency, according to Department of Justice officials.

The sentencing is scheduled for October 12 at 2 p.m., with U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young.

On February 5, 2016, Freitas smuggled $17,500 through airport security and later deposited the money in a Portuguese bank account belonging to Carlos Rafael, the owner of Carlos Seafood, Inc., officials said.

Rafael owned 32 fishing vessels and 44 permits, which amounted to one of the largest commercial fishing businesses in the United States, officials said.

Between 2012 and 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, officials said. He also submitted false records to federal regulators, and sold most of the fish his vessels caught to a wholesale business in New York City in exchange for bags of cash, officials said. During meetings with the undercover federal agents, Rafael said that in dealings with the New York buyer he received $668,000 in cash.

Rafael pleaded guilty in March 2017 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. Rafael is scheduled to be sentenced on September 25.

The charges of bulk cash smuggling and monetary structuring provide for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb; Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; Rear Admiral Steven D. Poulin, Commander of the First Coast Guard District; Timothy Donovan, Assistant Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement; Gregory K. Null, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Philadelphia Field Office; and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew E. Lelling and David G. Tobin, of Weinreb’s Criminal Division.

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