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West Yarmouth man sent to prison for theft of thousands of oysters

A 37-year-old West Yarmouth man was sentenced to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty on Friday to stealing thousands of oysters from farms on Cape Cod last summer, prosecutors said.

Michael E. Bryant was charged in Barnstable Superior Court with shell fishing in a contained area. Along with the two-year sentence, he received 10 years’ probation for shell fishing without a commercial license and for six counts of larceny of property over $250, Caple and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said in a statement.

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Bryant will return to court at a later date to determine restitution for the theft of approximately $25,000 worth of oysters, O’Keefe said. Bryant’s lawyer, Peter Bella, could not be reached for comment.

During the summer of 2013, Bryant stole the oysters from Crowes Pasture in Dennis and from multiple town-owned farms in Barnstable, according to O’Keefe. It was not immediately clear which farms in Barnstable were affected.

Bryant was sentenced to two years because of the “significant amount” of oysters stolen, the district attorney said.

Gary Sawayer leases Crowes Pasture oyster farm in Dennis, and said the theft was tough.

“This bothered me a lot,” Sawayer said. “When someone steals the volume this guy did, that’s a big deal.”

Aside from stealing oysters from Sawayer’s farm, Bryant misplaced the trays that were holding the oysters, causing them to be swept out to sea with the tide.

“The equipment lost could last 20 years,” said Sawayer. “It’s now gone. It wasn’t cheap.”

Bryant had been selling the stolen oysters to Joseph A. Vaudo, who pleaded guilty to charges of receiving stolen property, failure or refusal to file statistical reports of wholesale and retail shellfish dealers, and directly and willfully misleading a police officer in April, according to a statement from O’Keefe at that time. Vaudo, 63, of Sandwich, was ordered to pay $6,250 in fines in Barnstable District Court.

“If you don’t have someone to sell the stuff to, you don’t steal,” said Sawayer, who was more angry with Vaudo for accepting stolen oysters than with Bryant for taking them in the first place.


Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com or on Twitter @Melissa__Hanson.
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