A federal judge Thursday ordered a company allegedly created to help facilitate a scheme to steal lobsters to pay a civil judgment of more than $4.5 million.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Sea Salt, a Saco restaurant and lobster wholesaler, against a former employee and part owner over lobsters allegedly shipped off the books and resold.

The lawsuit, filed last September, said Matthew Bellerose of Scarborough shipped lobsters from Sea Salt without generating shipping labels or invoices so the company didn’t bill and wasn’t paid for the crustaceans. Sea Salt contends Bellerose, who had worked for the business since 2009, shipped nearly $1.5 million worth of lobster that he and a partner then sold.

Bellerose and his partner, Vincent J. Mastropasqua of Portland, set up a company, East End Transport, to handle some of the shipments, Sea Salt’s suit said.

Sea Salt sued Bellerose; Mastropasqua; his brother Anthony Mastropasqua; Amanda Bellerose, Matthew Bellerose’s wife; and East End Transport seeking to recover its losses. Because the suit alleges a criminal conspiracy, Sea Salt was able to seek triple its losses as damages and U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. imposed that penalty after a short hearing Thursday.

Woodcock had earlier entered a default judgment against East End Transport because it didn’t defend itself against the allegations. No one representing the company or the other defendants was at Thursday’s hearing, held to determine damages.


Laura White, Sea Salt’s lawyer, said it isn’t clear whether East End Transport has any assets that can be used to satisfy the judgment.

“That’s what I’m going to find out,” she said after the hearing.

Matthew Bellerose was in charge of Sea Salt’s order fulfillment and shipping operation. In 2017, he was offered a 20 percent stake in the business.

The suit said Bellerose admitted the embezzlement to his Sea Salt partners and offered to pay back the money after he was fired in June 2018. Bellerose said he did it to pay for his 20 percent share of the company, the suit says.

“Guys, I just want to say I’m really sorry,” Bellerose texted his partners, according to the suit. “Not only have I betrayed your trust but years of friendship as well and that one will haunt me forever. … I’d like to resolve this as best as I possibly can with you guys without my innocent family having to suffer for my bad decisions.”

Both Matthew and Amanda Bellerose and the Mastropasqua brothers have denied the allegations in court filings. The civil cases against the other defendants are currently scheduled for trial in March.

Another Maine lobster wholesaler lost money in an embezzlement scheme similar to the one Bellerose and the others are accused of. In January 2018, a former Massachusetts man pleaded guilty to shipping 50,000 pounds of lobster, worth about $360,000, to a customer in China.

Jonathan F. Cowles’ employer, Maine Coast Shellfish, was not paid for those lobsters. Cowles also pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud for sending himself $25,000 in commissions to which he wasn’t entitled.

Cowles pleaded guilty and in June 2018 was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of nearly $360,000. Court records indicated he has since moved to Hawaii, where he will be on supervised release until 2022.

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