Shipyard owner accused of fraud

Contractor owed for Sparrows Point work files RICO claim

November 20, 2007|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN REPORTER

Vincent F. Barletta, the Massachusetts owner of Sparrows Point shipyard, and certain affiliates have two weeks to answer racketeering claims filed against them last week in Baltimore's U.S. District Court. If they don't, the defendants face a default judgment of up to $2.25 million, according to court documents.

The civil lawsuit, filed by Clean Venture Inc. on Nov. 13, claims that at least some of the defendants took up to $750,000 that was owed to the New Jersey ship-breaking company.

Clean Venture was hired as a contractor by North American Ship Recycling to perform dismantling work on various old and no-longer-used U.S. Maritime Administration ships.

Clean Venture previously sued North American Ship Recycling, or NASR, for the money it was owed, winning a $750,000 judgment from U.S. District Court in September.

North American Ship Recycling, where Barletta served as vice president, has since disappeared from its Sparrows Point site, before the judgment could be collected.

The company left behind two Maritime Administration ships - the Sphinx and the Hoist - it was supposed to dismantle.

This new lawsuit is filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, and alleges wire fraud, unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting and breach of fiduciary duty.

The suit names Vincent Barletta, his brother, Timothy Barletta, who was NASR's president, as well as their attorney, various colleagues and certain affiliated businesses.

It seeks the $750,000 owed to Clean Venture. The amount could be tripled under the RICO act.

"Clean Venture is intent on recovering what the federal District Court has said that it is owed, $750,000 at least," attorney J. Stephen Simms said yesterday.

Summonses sent to the defendants last week by the court said they had 20 days to respond to the complaint or "judgment will be taken against you for the relief demanded."

A telephone call to Barletta attorney John G. Bulman was not returned yesterday, nor were calls to Barletta's Massachusetts offices.

In a letter earlier this month to David S. Ianucci, Baltimore County's economic development director, Bulman acknowledged the "termination of operations by North American Ship Recycling," though he did not say what happened to the company.

The Maritime Administration is investigating the situation and arranging for the removal of the abandoned ships.

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