MACHIAS, Maine — Two local men are expected to appear in Washington County Superior Court on Monday, Dec. 22, in connection with the alleged theft of more than $18,000 from a Jonesport lobster company.
Joseph H. Dougherty, 28, of Jonesport and Anthony W. Merchant, 49, of Machias have been charged with theft by unauthorized taking.
They each have been released on $25,000 unsecured bail.
Dougherty asked to talk to police in early November after officials at the Smith Lobster Co. in Jonesport became suspicious of his activities. It appears he wanted to confess before the company owners contacted the authorities.
Maine State Police began investigating the theft on Nov. 6 after Dougherty told Detective Micah Perkins that he had been stealing from the company where he had worked as a wharf manager for the past four years, according to court documents.
“During the interview with Joseph, he told me that over the last 10 to 12 weeks he has been writing checks out from the Smith Lobster Inc. checking account, under his authority as manager, to Anthony Merchant,” according to an affidavit filed with the court by Perkins.
Dougherty said he would write the check out to Merchant as if he were paying one of the fishermen. Merchant, who was not a fisherman, would cash the checks and the two men allegedly would split the money, the court document said.
Dougherty told police he had written more than 50 checks totaling more than $18,000.
Police then interviewed William Smith Jr. and Leon Smith, two of the owners of the company. “The Smiths advised that since the summer, Joseph has stolen approximately $21,000 from Smith Lobster Inc.,” the affidavit said.
The owners said they discovered over the summer that Dougherty had been writing duplicate paychecks to himself. Company officials ordered him to stop and after that he was not allowed to write out his own paycheck, the affidavit said.
“William told me that this is the third time since this summer that they have caught Joseph stealing from the company, but this time it is much more money,” the court documents said of the checks allegedly paid to Merchant.
Leon Smith’s wife, who manages the finances for the company, discovered the latest irregularities, the affidavit added.
Perkins then was given copies of Department of Marine Resources documents which detail the day the lobsters were received, the port landed at, the harvester’s name, how many pounds of lobster, price per pound, how much fuel and bait were used and how much money was paid to the fisherman. Merchant allegedly was paid $18,364 from the company account, the affidavit said.
“Leon Smith advised that Merchant does not fish and has not brought any lobsters to Smith Lobster Inc. and was entitled to no money,” the affidavit said.
Police then spoke with a bank in Jonesport. Officials there showed police copies of checks issued to Merchant from the company.
Police spoke with company employees and one of them told police that Dougherty allegedly said he had been buying drugs and writing Merchant checks, the affidavit said.