Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound owner Anthony Pettegrow takes clams out of hot water at the Trenton restaurant in this file photo. Pettegrow, his wife, Josette, and their son Warren Pettegrow are named as defendants in a civil lawsuit filed Dec. 5, 2019 in federal court by the Maine Lobstering Union. Credit: Gabor Degre

A union that represents Maine lobstermen has filed a lawsuit against the former CEO of its wholesale business and his parents in federal court in Bangor, alleging that the family defrauded and stole from the union after selling it their wholesale lobster business two years ago.

Warren Pettegrow, who was fired last spring as the CEO of the co-op, Lobster 207, and his parents, Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound owners Anthony and Josette Pettegrow, are accused of violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The Maine Lobstering Union, which purchased the Pettegrows’ wholesale business in 2017 for $4 million, alleges that, after the sale, the Pettegrows embezzled funds, submitted fraudulent invoices, “up-charged” for lobster products, and violated the sale contract by operating a competing wholesale business.

Warren Pettegrow ran his parents’ wholesale business prior to it being sold in March 2017 to the Maine Lobstering Union, at which point the union hired him as the wholesale business’ CEO.

Also named as a defendant in the lawsuit is Stephen Peabody, an Addison resident who is manager of the Beals-Jonesport Co-op and is described in the complaint as a “longtime business associate” of the Pettegrows.

“The amount of money allegedly involved in these schemes caused significant financial injuries to Lobster 207,” said Thimi Mina, a Portland lawyer who represents Lobster 207 in the lawsuit. “The men and women of Maine’s lobstering community deserve to function in a marketplace that is honest, transparent and free of corruption. The ultimate objective of this lawsuit is to recover the money which rightfully belongs to the Maine Lobstering Union and its wholesale lobster business, Lobster 207.”

The complaint does not say how much money the Pettegrows are alleged to have improperly taken, but according to supplemental financial statements filed with the lawsuit, the amount could exceed $1.4 million.

The complaint does claim that Lobster 207 suffered losses “in excess of” $2.93 million as a result of the alleged scheme.

It was not clear Thursday if the Pettegrows or Peabody had hired any attorneys to represent them in the lawsuit.

The Pettegrows did not respond to a request for comment left Thursday afternoon at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. Attempts to contact Peabody were unsuccessful.

The Maine Lobstering Union was founded in 2013, in the wake of a sharp drop in the price paid to fishermen for the catch, as a way to give member fishermen a greater financial stake in the wholesale distribution of lobster. It is a division of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union which, as a labor organization, is protected from alleged racketeering under the federal RICO statute.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....