He got caught in the net, but he avoided prison.
A former captain with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office was sentenced Monday to a year of probation for helping the infamous New Bedford fishing magnate dubbed the Codfather smuggle profits from his overfishing scheme to Portugal, prosecutors said.
The convict and former captain, Jamie Melo, 46, of North Dartmouth, learned his fate during a sentencing hearing in US District Court in Boston, according to US Attoney Andrew E. Lelling’s office.
A jury in that courthouse convicted Melo in June of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States and structuring the export of monetary instruments, Lelling’s office said in a statement.
Melo was acquitted of bulk cash smuggling, the release said. He’ll be confined to his home during the first eight months of his yearlong probation, according to Lelling’s office.
“During the trial, evidence showed that while at Logan International Airport Melo asked his friends and travel companions to carry envelopes of cash for [Codfather Carlos] Rafael on a flight to the Azores in Portugal,” the release said. “At the time, Melo was an Administrative Captain with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and was traveling to the Azores with Rafael for a charity event sponsored by the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to the flight, Melo asked three of his travel companions to follow him into the men’s bathroom at Logan Airport before going through the TSA Security Checkpoint.”
According to the release, while in the bathroom “Melo distributed four envelopes of cash to his companions, taking one for himself. Two days after arriving in Portugal, bank records demonstrate that Rafael deposited $76,000 in U.S. currency into his Portuguese bank account.”
Gary G. Pelletier, a lawyer for Melo, sought probation for his client in a sentencing request filed Friday.
“No evidence here suggests that this was anything other than a one time offense committed by Mr. Melo – a trusting and loyal individual - at the behest of Carlos Rafael,” Pelletier wrote. “It involved minimal to no planning on Mr. Melo’s part, the actions of handing out the envelopes had a limited duration confined to a few hours at Logan Airport on November 10, 2015 and it constitutes a marked variation from the way Mr. Melo has lived his life. Mr. Melo is a law-abiding citizen who is devoted to his wife, his sons, his church and his community.”
Prosecutors, however, wanted Melo to spend at least 21 months behind bars.
“The nature and circumstances of the offense involves the knowing commission of a federal crime by a sworn and armed law enforcement officer,” the government wrote in its sentencing request. “Commission of crimes by law enforcement officer erodes trust in government, and damages the reputation of rightminded members of law enforcement officials. The defendant’s argument and testimony at trial that he was motivated by charitable desire to help people is unsupported by the evidence and jury’s verdict. In the government’s view, MELO was motivated to desire to assist powerful local figure in the community known as the ‘Cod Father.’ ”
That powerful figure, Rafael, is currently serving a 46-month prison term at FMC-Devens in Ayer for for tax evasion and flouting fishing quotas. He’s slated for release in March 2021.
Prosecutors said Rafael evaded federal limits by falsely reporting cod as less valuable fish, hurting small fishermen who followed the law.