By Christine Legere
BARNSTABLE — A West Yarmouth man accused of poaching thousands of oysters from beds in Dennis and Barnstable last summer also faces a long list of other theft charges.
Michael Bryant has several open cases in Barnstable District Court for check-forging, shoplifting and buying stolen merchandise.
And on May 1, the 37-year-old was arraigned in Orleans District Court for poaching eels.
During Friday's arraignment for the oyster thefts, Bryant entered not-guilty pleas to six counts of larceny over $250, shellfishing in a contaminated area, illegal shellfish sales and a commercial fishing license violation — charges on which he was indicted by a grand jury in March.
Bryant is believed to be the culprit behind a string of raids on oyster grants in Crowes Pasture in Dennis and in a town-run area in Barnstable last June and July. Oyster farmers lost about $40,000 in shellfish and equipment as a result.
Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo set bail at $1,500 cash. As a condition of bail, the judge ordered Bryant to surrender any fishing licenses he has to the court's probation department.
During the arraignment, Waltham attorney Peter Bella told the judge his client didn't have a shellfishing license. Outside the court, Bella said he had since been told Bryant had "some kind of license," although he wasn't sure what it was.
After a few hours in Barnstable County Correctional Facility, Bryant was bailed Friday afternoon and is due back in court July 7 for a pretrial conference and July 25 for a pretrial hearing.
Pending District Court charges against Bryant include attempting to cash a $2,000 check drawn on the account of an 89-year-old woman, shoplifting groceries and buying two stolen boat motors.
Bryant's wife, Sarah Snowden Bryant, is a co-defendant in the shoplifting case. They are accused of taking more than $1,000 in goods from Stop & Shop stores in Dennis and Yarmouth one day last summer.
He also was found guilty in 2011 of assault and battery, based on an incident in Yarmouth, for which he was put on 15 months probation.
Court documents describe Bryant as having a "long history of arraignments for larceny, shoplifting, breaking and entering, and receiving stolen property."
The indictments in the oyster case were the result of several months of investigation by Barnstable police and the Massachusetts Environmental Police, helped along in October by an informant, who has since collected a $2,000 reward offered by oyster farmers.
Based on tips from the informant, police put Bryant under surveillance in the fall and saw him raking oysters in a contaminated area in Yarmouth one night. The next day, authorities followed Bryant to a Sandwich fish market owned by 63-year-old businessman Joseph Vaudo.
Vaudo, who pleaded guilty in late March to receiving stolen oysters from Bryant, is fighting an attempt by state health officials to revoke his license to sell seafood. For now, his Sandwich business, Joe's Fish Market, remains open.
Vaudo felt another repercussion of the oyster case earlier this week, when he lost his seat on the Sandwich Planning Board to a write-in candidate.