Sheriff's office captain arrested in connection to 'Codfather' case

By Douglas McCulloch | Aug 31, 2017
Courtesy of: City of New Bedford Carlos Seafood Inc in New Bedford.

A captain in the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office is accused of helping New Bedford fishing mogul Carlos Rafael smuggle tens of thousands of dollars into Portugal on a 2015 trip to deliver turkeys to orphans and deportees in that country.

Jamie Melo, 45, of Dartmouth was arrested on August 30, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. Melo faces charges of conspiracy, bulk cash smuggling, and "structuring." He was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

Melo is accused of assisting Rafael, owner of Carlos Seafood Inc., in smuggling $50,000 in cash from illegal fish sales. Rafael pleaded guilty to a slew of charges in connection with the scheme earlier this year.

It is alleged in court documents that during a meeting with undercover agents posing as buyers of Rafael’s seafood business, Rafael detailed how he illegally caught fish and hid the profits by smuggling the money. During that meeting, Rafael said he had a relationship with “the captain at the prison,” whom he later identified as “Jimmy Melo.”

In November of 2015, agents conducting surveillance at Logan International Airport reported witnessing Melo and Rafael arrive in a Bristol County Sheriff’s Office marked vehicle.

According to sheriff’s office spokesman Jonathan Darling, Melo was overseeing a sheriff's office-sponsored Thanksgiving program at the time. Volunteers were shipping turkeys and canned goods to the Azores for orphans and those deported from the United States.

Melo successfully went through TSA screening, but Rafael was stopped after he was found with $27,000 in cash. He completed a financial affidavit and was allowed to proceed with the cash, according to court documents.

Before the flight, Melo allegedly distributed envelopes containing money to at least four other acquaintances who were traveling on the same flight. Court records only identify those individuals as a married man and woman from Fall River, a North Dartmouth man, and a New Bedford man.

Despite only declaring $27,000 in cash, records agents obtained from a Portuguese bank show Rafael deposited $76,000 into an account at Banif Bank two days after the flight landed. Agents believe the remaining $50,000 came from Melo and four other individuals believed to have each carried just under the $10,000 threshold for federal reporting requirements -- a tactic known as "structuring."

Melo, who has worked for the sheriff’s office since 1997, is suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case, said Darling, the department spokesman.

“We are fully cooperating with the federal investigation,” Darling said. “Anything they need from us, we will provide.”

In other developments related to the Rafael case, debate continues surrounding the future of his fleet of commercial fishing vessels. The court issued a preliminary order for the forfeiture of 13 fishing vessels and their accompanying commercial fishing permits earlier this month.

A number of parties have expressed an interest in those vessels. Among them is Rafael’s wife, Conceicao Rafael. According to her court filing, she claimed she has a 50-percent ownership in 11 legal entities and an equitable interest in 11 out of the 13 vessels listed in the initial forfeiture order.

She also said she was not involved in, nor aware of, any illegal activity conducted by her husband and had no knowledge that the vessels were used in criminal activity.

R and C Fishing Corporation owner Joao Camara said he is the title holder of one of the vessels listed in the forfeiture, the F/V Southern Crusader II, and denied the company was involved in or had knowledge of the use of the vessel for criminal activity.

Other parties claiming interest include the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission, citing unpaid dockage fees for several of Rafael’s vessels. New Bedford Ship Supply expressed an interest in seven vessels, citing unpaid invoices for fishing trip supplies.

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