As raw December 1998 swept over the Atlantic off New Bedford, Mass., scallop fisherman Larry Yacubian brought around his boat, Independence, hailed by the Coast Guard. The officers who boarded his fishing vessel didn’t tell Yacubian it was a setup to coerce out of him a ruinous fine and to destroy his life so thoroughly he could never get it back.
Captain Yacubian lost his business, his boat, his license to fish — and literally the farm that had been in the family for generations — trying to exonerate himself of false accusations that he had been fishing in a prohibited area and free himself from a malicious prosecution for lies that he never told. His persecutor? The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Two weeks ago, Captain Yacubian filed the lawsuit that may well restore his money and his life after nearly 15 years of gut-wrenching bludgeoning by the NOAA.
The Commerce Department’s inspector general reviewed the NOAA’s Asset Forfeiture Fund — where Yacubian’s $430,000 fine went — and found that “these funds were used to purchase ‘luxurious’ undercover vessels, buy 202 vehicles for a staff of 172 enforcement personnel, and take trips around the world.”
A special investigative judge concluded there is “credible evidence that money was NOAA’s motivating objective in this case.” There’s also knowledgeable belief that the NOAA’s purpose is to eradicate the fishing industry.
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