$1 million lien placed on former lobster co-op manager's property
Portland — A $1 million lien was placed on the property of a former Spruce Head Fishermen's Co-op Manager accused of stealing and selling shellfish from his employer, and his reported accomplice, John Price and Price's company, J.P's Shellfish, Inc.
Justice A. M. Horton, on Aug. 20, ordered the attachment in Maine's Business and Consumer Court on the property as said the plaintiff, Spruce Head Fishermen's Co-op, has shown it will likely recover civil judgement against the defendants.
Robert E. Thompson, 51, of St. George, who was the manager of the co-op, was arrested in October and charged with felony theft.
Thompson’s job included managing the buying and selling of lobsters.
There are 56 lobstermen who sell to the Spruce Head cooperative and are part-owners of the cooperative.
The charge was dropped in May by the state as the court required the prosecution to provide pre-indictment information to the defense as a condition of an extension the state asked for to continue the investigation against Thompson, according to court documents.
Providing information, at the time, could jeopardize the ongoing investigation of the case, said the state. This particular dismissal does not prevent future prosecution, said court documents.
When police raided Thompson’s home last year, they seized more than $20,000 in cash, computers and all his financial records, according to records filed in Knox County Superior Court.
In a civil lawsuit filed against Thompson, the co-op claimed Thompson stole nearly $180,000, but in January, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm said the evidence would only support $10,000 in losses.
As Thompson is not a lobsterman, the plaintiff's argue there would be no legitimate reason for him to have been in possession of so much shellfish, and added they had no knowledge of the transactions between J.P's Shellfish, Inc. and Thompson until reviewing surveillance footage of their activity.
The order also states that documents obtained by the plaintiff's from J.P's indicate that several hundred transactions, from Dec. 2006 to Oct. 2012 show that the York County-based shellfish company paid Thompson a little more than $1 million in exchange for lobsters and crabs.
The defendants said the sales could have been "side sales" and added the plaintiff failed to show Thompson did not make payments from the sales to co-op members, said the order.
The cooperative's board members said they suspected Thompson had been stealing from the co-op for several years because they could see the amount of money he spent and the expenditures outweighed his income from the co-op, according to the affidavit.
In February, an informant provided firsthand knowledge of the alleged illegal activity by Thompson, the affidavit stated.
While Thompson was on vacation, the cooperative board members hired a company to install surveillance and recording equipment at the Spruce Head Island Co-op.
A review of the surveillance videos showed that 17 crates of lobsters had been shipped to the York County dealer that were not recorded by Thompson during a four-month period. The minimum value of these lobsters was estimated at $13,660.
A review of business records also found that Thompson was collecting no receipts when the York County dealer’s trucks picked up, although receipts were being collected from other buyers.
The board members told the sheriff's office they believed Thompson was creating extra crates of lobsters by manipulating the scales that weigh incoming lobsters.
Later surveillance in September showed no discrepancy but board members said Thompson acted as if he knew he was under suspicion.
The informant had witnessed envelopes of cash being dropped off to Thompson by truck drivers from a York County dealer, according to the affidavit. The report stated the informant reported that there was at least $5,000 in the envelopes. The informant did not say how he knew the contents of the envelopes.
The informant also reported seeing several yellow manila envelopes of cash in a safe at Thompson’s home that looked like the ones turned over to Thompson by the drivers from a York County dealer.
Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
594-4401 ext. 118
Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.
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