OWNER OF NORTH ATTLEBORO SEAFOOD DEALER PLEADS GUILTY TO $7 MILLION BANK FRAUD
BOSTON, Mass. - The owner of Ocean Fresh Seafood, Inc. was convicted in federal court late yesterday of engaging in a scheme to defraud Wells Fargo Business Credit, Inc., a division of Wells Fargo Bank NA, of at least $7 million.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Boston Field Division and William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service ‘s Criminal Investigation - Boston Field Office announced that ROBERT COUTU, 59, of Cumberland, Rhode Island pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.
At the plea hearing, the prosecutor told the Court that Coutu was the owner of Ocean Fresh Seafood, Inc., headquartered in North Attleboro, when he orchestrated a scheme to defraud Wells Fargo. Since 2002, Wells Fargo had extended a line of credit to Ocean Fresh, secured by Ocean Fresh’s accounts receivable and inventory. Coutu, with the assistance of other Ocean Fresh employees, falsely inflated Ocean Fresh’s receivables and inventory balances in order to borrow millions of dollars more than his actual business activity would have permitted. To accomplish the scheme Coutu, and others, created false invoices and wired funds from Ocean Fresh’s bank account to accounts managed by affiliates and friends of Coutu to give the appearance that Ocean Fresh was buying and selling much more product than it actually was. Ocean Fresh’s former Controllers, Christopher Day and Cynthia Larose were indicted for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, along with Coutu. Larose has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Day is awaiting trial.
Judge Gertner scheduled the sentencing hearing for January 19, 2011. Coutu faces up to 30 years imprisonment, to be followed by five years supervised release and a $1 million fine on the bank fraud charge; up to 10 years imprisonment, to be followed by three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine on the money laundering charges; and five years imprisonment, three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah E. Walters and Vassili N. Thomadakis of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit.