Federal agents raid New Bedford seafood wholesaler

Federal agents swarmed Carlos Seafood in New Bedford Friday morning arresting the owner Carlos Rafael and his book keeper Debra Messier.

The two are accusing of selling fish off the books. They are facing federal charges of conspiracy and submitting falsified records to the federal government to evade federal fishing quotas.

This isn’t the first time Rafael has been in trouble. In fact, over the last 20 years he’s been the subject of multiple federal investigations.

Rafael, sometimes referred to as the "Cod Father,” owns 40 fishing vessels in New Bedford and Gloucester.

"My immediate concern is what’s going to happen next week and the week after to the fisherman who have to go out see and the livelihood of the folks who are in his processing plant,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

A court affidavit reveals that undercover IRS agents first began their investigation into Rafael in May of 2015. The agents posed as a broker and Russian immigrants involved in crime. They told Rafael  they were interested in buying his business.

According to those documents Rafael valued his business at $175 million. He allegedly told the agents that he sold fish to a business in New York City for "bags of cash."

In one of the conversations about a man they sell those fish to Rafael is quoted as saying "He buys a lot of fish. You can become a laundromat. You’ll never find a better laundromat that this {expletive}.”

That conversation goes on to say "I open myself because both of you is Russians and I don’t think they would have two Russians (posing as agents.) *** me that would be some bad luck."

The investigation revealed that the illegal fish selling operation brought in $668,000 in less than 6 months… the agents also saying they learned that Rafael was smuggling money into Portugal.

Rafael and Messier appeared in court Friday afternoon. Messier was released on $10,000 unsecured bond and Rafael was held until a detention hearing on Wednesday.

© WLNE-TV 2016