Feds agree to return $71,500 seized from fishermen’s cooperatives in South Thomaston

Posted Aug. 28, 2014, at 5:22 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 28, 2014, at 9:12 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — One of the largest fishermen’s cooperative in the state will get back $71,500 seized by police during an investigation into the theft of more than $1 million in lobsters.

Attorney George “Toby” Dilworth of Portland said Thursday an agreement in principle has been reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to return the money to the Spruce Head Fishermen’s Cooperative in South Thomaston. A lawsuit filed by the cooperative last month against the government was dismissed Wednesday.

A notice with the dismissal states the matter has been resolved.

Dilworth, who represents the cooperative, said the $71,500 was cash seized from the St. George and Rockwood homes of former cooperative manager Robert Thompson and from a safety deposit box Thompson had at a local bank.

The money was seized in October 2012 as part of a criminal investigation into Thompson, J.P. Shellfish of Eliot, and its owner John Price, 58, of Kittery.

Thompson, 53, originally was charged by the state with felony theft in relation to the sale of lobsters that were the property of the cooperative. That charge was dropped in May 2013, however, after the state said it did not want to turn over evidence to the defense because it could jeopardize a federal investigation.

No federal criminal charges have been filed against the Thompsons yet. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has repeatedly refused in the past to comment on any pending matter against Thompson. A message left Thursday afternoon for Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Murphy but was not immediately returned.

Price pleaded guilty in January to 12 counts of illegal structuring of currency transactions. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 30 in the Portland courthouse.

Price’s shellfish company was the primary buyer of lobsters from the cooperative which has 56 lobstermen as members.

The cooperative settled a separate civil lawsuit against Price, his company, and Robert Thompson and his wife, Cindy Thompson, in which it alleged the former manager skimmed more than $1 million worth of lobsters caught by cooperative members and sold them to Price, with the money going directly to Thompson.

Details of the settlement were not released, but last August, Maine Superior Court Justice Andrew Horton agreed to place an attachment of more than $1 million against the property of the defendants, saying the cooperative was more than likely going to win the case.

An informant told police, according to an affidavit filed by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in 2012, he had witnessed envelopes of cash being dropped off to Robert Thompson by truck drivers from J.P. Shellfish. The informant reported there was at least $5,000 in each envelope.

 

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