Oyster Thief Sentenced to Jail

The man who said he sold stolen oysters to a Sandwich seafood retailer was sentenced to two years in jail at a proceeding August 1 at Barnstable Superior Court.

Michael E. Bryant, 37, of West Yarmouth pleaded guilty to shellfishing in a contained area. The law pertains to contaminated areas of water where harvesting of shellfish is prohibited.

Following the plea, Judge Gary A. Nickerson sentenced Mr. Bryant to two years at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility in Pocasset.

Mr. Bryant told police that he sold the oysters to Joseph A. Vaudo, 63, president and owner of Joe’s Lobster Mart off Coast Guard Road in Sandwich.

In March, Mr. Vaudo pleaded guilty in Barnstable District Court to charges stemming from his purchase of the oysters.

The state Department of Public Health has moved to revoke Mr. Vaudo’s seafood dealer’s license. Mr. Vaudo has appealed the revocation. A hearing on the matter is slated for September 4 before the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals.

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At Friday’s proceeding in superior court, Mr. Bryant also pleaded guilty to shellfishing without a commercial license, and to six counts of larceny of property over $250. Judge Nickerson sentenced him to 10 years probation on each plea.

As a condition of the probation, the judge further ordered Mr. Bryant to make restitution to his victims in the approximate amount of $25,000. The exact sum will be determined at a later hearing date.

Last year, Mr. Bryant stole immature oysters from private seafood grants in East Dennis and from Town of Barnstable propagation beds in the Marstons Mills River.

John Lowell, an East Dennis seafood farmer (although not a victim), and the Barnstable Association for Recreational Shellfishing, a nonprofit group based in West Barnstable, each offered $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for the theft.

Following the posting of the rewards, police received information pointing at Mr. Bryant.

The police placed Mr. Bryant under surveillance. Last October, according to police, they observed Mr. Bryant harvesting oysters from a closed, contaminated pond in West Yarmouth.

The following day, they said, they followed him to Joe’s Lobster Mart in Sandwich, where he sold Mr. Vaudo 400 oysters for 80 cents apiece, or $320.

Police proceeded to charge both Mr. Bryant and Mr. Vaudo in connection with the harvesting and sale of the contaminated oysters.

On March 28, the same day that Mr. Vaudo entered his guilty pleas in district court, a Barnstable County grand jury indicted Mr. Bryant for crimes relating to the theft and sale of oysters.

Michael A. Trudeau, first assistant district attorney of the Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Office, prosecuted the case against Mr. Bryant.

Last Friday, August 1, District Attorney Michael D. O’Keefe said he was pleased with the outcome of the case, and with the work of Mr. Trudeau and investigators.

“It was important that both the thief and the buyer of these stolen oysters be held accountable,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “Without the hard work of law enforcement and the convictions obtained by this office against Mr. Vaudo, there would be no licensing hearing [at the state appeals division] at all.

“With regard to Mr. Bryant, his ability to plague the oyster farming community has been curtailed significantly by this guilty finding and jail sentence today,” the district attorney said.

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