The highly-anticipated forced sell-off of "Codfather" Carlos Rafael's fishing fleet appears to be near completion, only months after the convicted criminal unloaded his scallop boats.

Undercurrent News reports that Blue Harvest Fisheries has inked a $25 million deal to buy at least 35 vessels and skiffs from Rafael along with their permits and fishing quotas. Blue Harvest maintains fleets in Fairhaven and in Newport News, Virginia. It is backed by Bregal Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm.

The pending deal with Blue Harvest – which still must survive a "right of first refusal" where other harvesters could step forward – comes as Rafael remains behind bars.

Rafael was arrested in 2016 following a federal sting, and was convicted on 28 criminal counts in 2017. Rafael admitted to raking in illegal profits and gaming the system by mislabeling 700,000 pounds of harvested fish over four years. He also illegally avoided paying taxes. Rafael was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison. To settle a separate civil suit with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, he was forced to sell his fishing fleet, pay $3 million in penalties, and never engage in the world of commercial fishing again.

It's the second round of selloffs for Rafael. In September, Quinn Fisheries, a New Bedford area scallop operation, agreed to pay $40 million for Rafael's best vessels. They include six scallopers – the Acores, Athena, Apollo, Gypsy Girl, Hera II and Villa Nova Do II.

Should the Blue Harvest deal go through, they will have to hire all new captains. Rafael's former captains are all bound by tough restrictions now, including suspensions, probationary periods, and the requirement that observers be on deck during groundfish or scallop trips.

Blue Harvest has been on a spending spree, Undercurrent reports. Last year the company scooped up the Maine-based Atlantic Trawlers Fishing. Blue Harvest processes fish from Atlantic's five vessels at its fish processing center in New Bedford, which it acquired in 2016 from Canada's High Liner Foods.

The deal between Rafael and Blue Harvest includes millions of pounds of quota for cod, haddock, pollock, and other fish within the Northeast Multispecies Fisheries.

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