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Atwood Lobster denies any improper actions

St. George man says he was fired after reporting illegal actions by seafood company

By Stephen Betts | Jul 09, 2018
Aerial view of Atwood Lobster on Spruce Head Island in South Thomaston.

South Thomaston — The former general manager of a Spruce Head Island seafood company claims he was fired after raising concerns to the president of the parent corporation about illegal actions that included repackaging expired seafood as new.

The claims are included in a lawsuit filed June 18 in the Knox County court by Corey Thompson of St. George against Atwood Lobster LLC; Maine Lobster & Processing Inc.; Jorzac Inc.; Mazzetta Co. LLC; Beach Point,LLC; Londonderry Freezer LLC; Highwood Cold Storage; and Gloucester Seafood Processing.

The attorney representing Atwood Lobster and the related firms said the companies deny any violation of the law when they terminated Thompson's employment. Attorney Tawny Alvarez of Portland said the companies also deny claims made by Thompson about repackaging expired seafood.

The lawsuit points out that the companies are related and that Mazzetta and Jorzac own each of the other companies. Mazzetta and Jorzac are based in Highland Park, Ill.

Mazzetta purchased Atwood Lobster, one of Maine's largest seafood dealers, in May 2011 from the Atwood family. Spruce Head Island is part of South Thomaston.

Thompson was hired as general manager of Atwood in March 2014. Atwood purchases lobsters and other seafood from harvesters and other dock owners.

He said on many occasions his supervisors demanded that he sell seafood  purchased to Beach Point Processing at artificially deflated prices. The processing plant is located at Beach Point, Prince Edward Island.

This resulted in Atwood's having artificial financial losses and Beach Point Processing's having artificial financial gains, the lawsuit claims.

He claims this was illegal and defrauded both the U.S. Internal Revenue Services and the Maine Bureau of Revenue Services, according to the lawsuit.

In late 2016, Atwood Lobster sought a commercial loan. Before that loan could be made, the lender instructed the company to hire an independent consultant. That consultant found financial management inefficiencies that Thompson claims were because of the deflated prices of lobsters being sold by Atwood.

The lender said it would count seafood inventory by the company as collateral, according to the lawsuit, but that expired seafood would not be counted as collateral.

The company had expired seafood repackaged with new packaging and new expiration dates so that additional product could be used as collateral.

Thompson said selling the expired seafood for public consumption was illegal. Thompson said he raised those concerns with Tom Mazzetta, the chief executive officer and president of the companies, according to the lawsuit.

Thompson said he was demoted to a maintenance position in March 2017 and on May 21, 2017, he sent an email to his supervisor and Mazzetta to again raise his concerns.

He was fired five days later.

He filed a complaint in June 2017 with the Maine Human Rights Commission. More than 180 days passed without a resolution of the case and the commission issued a right-to-sue letter to Thompson in January 2018.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages for the firing. Thompson is represented by attorney Chad Cloutier of Rockland.

Mazzetta is one of the largest importer and producers of shrimp, mussels, lobsters, crab and fin fish, producing more than 100 million pounds of finished seafood product each year, according to its website.

The company was founded in 1987 and has expanded over the years.

Londonderry Freezer LLC and Highwood Storage are located in Londonderry, N.H. Gloucester Seafood Processing is located in Gloucester, Mass.

Alvarez pointed out the lawsuit was filed in District Court ,which is not the proper venue and she will be filing for a dismissal. She said she is under the belief that Thompson's attorney will withdraw the lawsuit and likely refile in Superior Court.

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