Rockland claims lobster business was sham, sues owner

Posted Nov. 20, 2012, at 3:20 p.m.
Antonio Bussone
Antonio Bussone

ROCKLAND, Maine — The city has filed a lawsuit against a Massachusetts man for failing to pay for use of the municipal fish pier and claims that he operated the business as a sham to avoid personal responsibility for debts.

Rockland filed the lawsuit Monday in Knox County Superior Court against Rockland Lobster Co. LLC and its sole principal, Antonio Bussone of Chelsea, Mass.

The city is asking the court to order Bussone to pay the city $31,173 plus interest, and attorney and court costs.

Rockland Lobster and its predecessor Live Lobster Co. Inc., which the city said also was owned by Bussone, sold bait and bought lobsters at the city-owned fish pier from 2005 through 2012.

The companies had paid the necessary fees and other charges before 2012, according to the lawsuit.

The city said Rockland Lobster applied and was granted permits to conduct business at the fish pier in 2012 as a bait dealer and to buy lobsters.

The company operated at the pier in early 2012, selling bait, buying lobsters, using floats and storing equipment, such as bait coolers and pallets, at the pier. The company also used electricity and fuel from the pier.

Many of Live Lobster’s operations in Maine, including a lobster processing facility in Prospect Harbor, ceased functioning earlier this year after the company’s primary lender, TD Bank, froze the company’s accounts. In April, TD Bank filed suit against the lobster distributor, claiming the firm violated terms of a 2008 loan agreement for $4 million from the bank. That suit later was dropped, but the bank arranged a foreclosure auction that saw assets sold off in September.

Rockland Lobster ceased doing business at the Rockland pier on or about April 20.

“When Rockland Lobster ceased doing business at the fish pier, it failed to refill fuel tanks as required under its permit, and left the fish pier obstructed with abandoned personal property and littered with dirt, debris, and filth which it failed to move and clean,” the city states in its lawsuit.

The city incurred $6,792 in cleanup costs and applied a $2,500 deposit by the company to offset some of that expense.

The company also owes Rockland a total of $31,173 in permits and fees, according to the lawsuit.

“Rockland Lobster is the mere alter ego of Bussone,” the city’s lawsuit states, adding\ that Bussone transferred funds and assets of the company to himself or other entities he owned.

He also failed to file annual reports with the Maine Secretary of State’s Bureau of Corporations, failed to name and maintain a registered agent in the state, and transferred funds so that creditors could not get them, the city alleges.

“As a result of Rockland Lobster and Bussone’s conduct of the business operations of Rockland Lobster as a sham, the court is authorized and required to disregard Rockland Lobster Co., LLC as a distinct entity and to hold Bussone” liable for the debt to Rockland, according to the city’s lawsuit.

Bussone could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

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