Police Investigating ‘Suspicious’ Sinkings of ‘Codfather’ Vessels
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and City Councillor Brian Gomes both agree that there's something fishy about the sinking of two fishing vessels in New Bedford Harbor earlier this week.
The 65-foot Nemesis and the 68-foot Dinah Jane both went down early Monday morning at Homer's Wharf. The two vessels were both owned by Carlos Rafael, the "Codfather" convicted of running an illegal overfishing scheme and sneaking the profits to Portugal.
"When two vessels owned by the same guy sink at the same dock on the same day, I think it's fair to say that's not just a coincidence," Mitchell said in his weekly appearance on WBSM Wednesday. "So the police are looking into it as a criminal matter, as they should."
On Thursday, the process began of raising the boats back to the surface, so that the Coast Guard can conduct a more thorough investigation in order to determine how the boats sank. The two boats were tied to each other at the time of the sinking, and their masts have become entangled under the surface.
Tucker Roy Marine Towing and Salvage is working to pump the water out of the boats in order for them to float once again. That process is expected to be completed by Saturday.
Councillor-at-Large Gomes agrees that the boats sinking together are suspicious.
"I would think so. I just don't want to call that coincidental," Gomes said in an appearance with WBSM's Barry Richard. "If one boat went down, okay. But two? Um, we've got something happening down there."
Gomes said he knows there are cameras down on the waterfront, and he's wondering if they picked up anything related to the sinking.
"Our police department is doing its job, and I'm sure they're looking at every angle to hold somebody accountable for what has happened," he said.
"I'm sure the police are working very closely with the Coast Guard and everything," Gomes said. "Those boats are being floated back up, the Coast Guard can get on there and figure out did somebody purposely do this, and when did it get done?"
Mitchell said most sinkings are cause for suspicion at first.
"We've had vessels at our docks mysteriously sink before, and it's not good. Whether it's insurance fraud, whether it's done for another reason, (but) sometimes it's just by accident," he said.
Mitchell said he believes at least one of the two boats had just recently been out to sea; he said the four boats that have been seized as part of Rafael's forfeiture obligations have been impounded, he believes, in Fairhaven. He also doesn't believe they were part of the 22 vessels that have been banned from groundfishing due to the Sector IX shutdown.
Mitchell said that to his knowledge, there are no federal agencies such as the FBI or NOAA involved in the investigation into the sinkings.