Last week federal officers from several different government agencies (NOAA, IRS, etc.,) paid a surprize visit to a well know character who owns several boats in the New Bedford commercial fleet. In the fishing community he is known as "The Codfather", but his real name is Carlos Rafael. Prior to building one of the biggest and most successful fishing fleets on all of the East Coast, Mr. Rafael came to the United States via Portugal in seach of a better life. Oh yes, its a classic tale of the little guy who came here with nothing but the "will-power" to build a good life for himself...and with lots or hard work and risk, the Portuguese fisherman from the Azores went from cutting fish in the sweat-shop, dirty processing plants to owning a multi-million dollar fleet of vessels.
Prior to his arrest, Mr. Rafael had achieved the American dream and on a very large scale may I add. As a charter captain of one small little boat, I cannot even imagine the amount of work it took to build and sustain an entire fleet...including all the families who would come to rely on "The Codfather" for a weekly paycheck. Then factor in all the other "problems" that come with owning a huge fleet of boats...ever-changing regulations, unending maintenence, huge fuel bills (imagine putting 1,000+ gallons in your car when filling up?), dealing with crappy weather, trying to find clean / sober deckhands (and Captains for that matter - gulp, gulp, gulp)...the list of headaches are endless. But when you get to the level of size and success that Mr. Rafael achieved, its all manageable and suprizingly...profitable. You can't build a commercial fleet with 20+ vessels without profit, its an impossible task and the banks who deal with the ebb and flow of a business such as this will sniff out "unprofitablity" very quickly and turn-off the money spigot on the drop of a dime...I know this hard lesson from personal experience in my former life. So what happened to "The Codfather" that would cause his downfall and derail his entire fleet? Hint...it's one of Satan's oldests and most subtle tricks...simple greed.
Greed creeps "quietly" through the doors of our minds and often times we either don't see it...or we ration it away figuring there are no consequences. Once it takes hold, greed works on what I call the "snowball effect"...starts small and gets bigger and bigger till it consumes the victim in an avalanche of calamity. In this case, it transformed a hard working, blue collar businessman from being known as the "Codfather" to a "Godfather" type mob figure, complete with a "money for fish" laundering operation that would reach across state lines and international waters, so large and unbeliveable it was almost hard to comprehend. And like a rogue wave of huge proportion, all the people caught-up in the federal sting will also be swept away in the aftermath and pay dearly for it in the form of a long prison sentance or huge fine. The list of charges levied against Mr. Rafael and his associates are too numerous to mention and go beyond the scope of this blog post. To read the full article I have enclosed the following link:
This afternoon I decided to make a trip to New Bedford to observe first hand the consequences of greed. As I walked down the bulkhead where Mr. Rafael keeps his enormous fleet, I noticed every vessel he owns, complete with his "CR" insignia on each bow, was tied fast to the pier - something I have never witnessed in all my years walking these docks. There was no activity, no diesel engine sounds, no nets being repaired, nobody preparing to sail, no joking or laughter...the only thing I could hear was the wind blowing through the rigging of a stagnet fleet with a very uncertain future...the high cost of greed.