Private Equity CEO Won't Face Charges In Old North Wharf Boat Sabotage Case
Jason Graziadei •
Marc Wolpow, the head of the multi-billion dollar private equity firm The Audax Group who was under investigation for purposefully untying a 32-foot boat from a slip at Old North Wharf, will not face any criminal charges in the case, the Current has learned.
Instead, Wolpow has reportedly agreed to pay for the damages caused by his actions - a resolution that was accepted by both Nantucket District Court and the victims in the case, while bringing an end to any potential criminal charges he may have faced.
The incident occurred back in October, when Wolpow - believing a vessel was in a slip he uses on Old North Wharf - untied the 32-foot Hunt center-console boat, allowing it to drift out of the Easy Street basin and into the ferry lane. The $500,000 boat, named “Fair Play,” eventually ran aground near Easton Street, but not before sustaining damage and causing damage to another vessel.
A few days later, the Massachusetts Environmental Police initiated an investigation into the incident, and eventually sought a criminal complaint against Wolpow in Nantucket District Court. Since Wolpow was not arrested, the matter was reviewed at a closed-door “show cause” hearing in which the clerk magistrate determines if probable cause exists for a complaint to issue.
The hearing - which was not open to the public - was held in late November or early December. While Nantucket District Court clerk magistrate Don Hart declined to comment on the case, he confirmed that there are no pending criminal charges against Wolpow. Nantucket Current submitted a request for the recording of the hearing, but that request was denied by the court.
“The legal considerations which dictate the public character of a trial are not present here,” Hart wrote in his denial, citing case law including Eagle -Tribune Pub. Co. v. Clerk-Magistrate of Lawrence Div. of Dist. Court Department. “There is no tradition of public access to show cause hearings, which are similar to grand jury proceedings. Such secrecy protects individuals against whom complaints are denied from undeserved notoriety, embarrassment and disgrace...Since the accused is ordinarily entitled to privacy at this early stage, public hearings are the exception rather than the rule. In this case, the accused is not a public official and although the matter was reported in the newspaper, the public interest does not outweigh the privacy rights of the defendant. For the above reasons, the recording of the hearing will not be made accessible to the public.”
Read the Nantucket District Court's decision here
It’s unclear if Hart found probable cause during the hearing.
Two of the victims in the case told the Current that they were satisfied with the resolution, and did not feel that criminal charges were necessary.
Both the Massachusetts Environmental Police and Wolpow’s attorney, Jim Merberg, declined to comment, as did the Nantucket Police Department, which initially responded to the incident before turning the case over to Environmental Police.
Show cause hearings are a unique feature of the criminal justice system in Massachusetts, and were recently explored in a Boston Globe Spotlight story.
According to the New England First Amendment Coalition, “Most criminal prosecutions begin with an arrest, followed by an application for a criminal complaint by a law enforcement officer. A law enforcement officer or private citizen, however, can also file an application for issuance of a criminal complaint without the occurrence of an arrest. Applications without arrests can be subject to a ‘show cause’ hearing when there is no threat of imminent bodily injury, the commission of a crime, or of the accused fleeing the state.”
That is what happened following the Environmental Police investigation of Wolpow last fall.
At the time of the incident involving Wolpow, the Fair Play was under the care of Nantucket fisherman Bruce Beebe, who was preparing to deliver it to the MacDougalls marine yard on the Cape for its winter layup. Beebe has his own slip on Old North Wharf, and received permission from wharf co-op representative Chris Quick to tie up the boat for the night at another slip that is normally used by Wolpow, as it was wider and due to the fact that Wolpow had already hauled his boat for the season.
But after attending mass at St. Mary's church the following morning, Beebe showed up at Old North Wharf to find the 32-foot vessel missing. After searching the entire harbor and calling Pat David, the wharf manager, and others for assistance, Beebe said he eventually located the grounded and damaged boat off Easton Street, and pieced together not only what had happened, but also who had untied the half-a-million-dollar vessel.
The incident caused thousands of dollars worth of damages to the Fair Play, according to Beebe, and an unknown amount of damages to the El Jefe.
Wolpow, who founded the Audax Group in 1999 and was a former managing director with Bain Capital, resides in New Hampshire but owns property on Nantucket near Brant Point as well as a cottage on Old North Wharf, which gives him access to the slips via the wharf’s cooperative association.