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Lawsuit alleges racketeering in lobster business

A federal lawsuit is alleging that the former owners of a Trenton lobster wholesaler violated an agreement to leave the business and instead stole money from the new owners.

The suit, filed in Bangor federal district court, said that a cooperative,  called the Maine Lobstering Union, bought a lobster wholesaling business in Trenton from Anthony and Josette Pettegrow in early 2017. The purchase included an agreement that the Pettegrows would withdraw from the wholesale lobster business and the couple’s son, Warren Pettegrow, would become CEO of the new wholesaling business, named Lobster 207.

The Maine Lobstering Union is owned by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The civil suit said that having Warren Pettegrow as CEO of Lobster 207 allowed him and his parents to embark “on a systematic scheme and pattern of racketeering activity designed to enrich themselves at Lobster 207’s expense.”

According to the suit, the Pettegrows charged Lobster 207 more for lobster than it paid and pocketed the difference, submitted bogus invoices for lobster, misrepresented the number of lobster crates the cooperative bought from the Pettegrows’ wholesale business and other misdeeds.

Over a two-year period, the suit said, Lobster 207 “paid Warren (Pettegrow) $374,623.54 when he did little more than embezzle money and lobster products from the union and its membership.”

The suit and a request for an attachment of the Pettegrows’ assets indicates that the cooperative believes it lost $1.94 million in the case. Because the suit alleges racketeering, the cooperative can seek triple damages from the Pettegrows.

A call to the Pettegrows seeking an interview about the suit was not returned Thursday. The suit does not list an attorney representing the couple. Thimi Mina, one of the lawyers representing the union, declined to comment.

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