Ex-Head of Maine Union Co-op Named in Racketeering Suit

The annual Maine lobster catch might not be in trouble, but certain people who sell it are. On December 5, Lobster 207, a wholesale marketing cooperative owned by the Maine Lobstering Union, an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, filed a civil racketeering complaint in Bangor federal court against its former head, Warren Pettegrow, his company Poseidon Charters Inc., and three other persons. The suit alleges the defendants engaged in a two-year scheme to loot the co-op. The union for now is seeking a $1.94 million lien on defendant properties. Pettegrow is denying all charges. Thimi Mina, the Portland attorney representing Lobster 207, asserts the alleged thefts “caused significant financial injuries.”

This crustacean tale of woe has its origins in 2017, after the Maine Lobstering Union purchased the wholesale operations of Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound for $4 million from Anthony and Josette Pettegrow, parents of Warren Pettegrow. As part of the deal, the son would be CEO of Trenton Bridge, and the parents would leave the lobster wholesaling business. Rather than abide by this non-compete clause, the Pettegrows allegedly formed a new enterprise through which they embezzled Lobster 207 funds, submitted fraudulent invoices, and overcharged customers. In effect, their son was a front man. The alleged scheme, which lasted during March 2017-April 2019, ended when the union, following an audit, fired the younger Pettegrow. The loss to Lobster 207 was “in excess of” $2.93 million, with at least $1.4 million attributable to theft. Also named as a defendant was Stephen Peabody, manager of Beals-Jonesport Co-op. No further developments in this case have been reported.

Postscript: In early June, the Lobster 207 cooperative won a more than $1.43 million attachment against Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, the Pettegrows and Poseidon Charters. A final ruling has yet to be rendered. An “attachment” is a court-ordered seizure of a defendant’s assets in anticipation of a favorable ruling for the plaintiff.