FBI and federal agents escort suspects charged with extortion and other crimes in the trash carting industry on Wednesday in New York. / AP
NEW YORK -- Reputed Genovese family associate Carmine "Papa Smurf" Franco and a recently retired state trooper were among 32 people indicted on federal charges Wednesday after a four-year investigation into organized crime's influence on the trash carting industry in the New York metro area.
The trooper, Mario Velez, a 20-year-veteran and is a former high school resource officer, is facing two extortion charges with Pasquale P. Cartalemi Jr., 50, and his son Pasquale L. Cartalemi, 27, of Cortlandt. They are accused of forcing a trash hauler to turn over his business to them in the fall of 2011.
Velez, 44, retired in October, under pressure, as the investigation by FBI agents, Westchester, N.Y., and New York City police was under way, a source close to the investigation told The Journal News. Sources said Velez worked with the Cartalemis at their family business, AAA Carting in Peekskill, N.Y.
Andrew McGuire, whom state business records identify as the president of Capital Waste Services in Hawthorne, N.Y., was charged with extortion conspiracy along with Velez and the Cartalemis but not in the alleged shakedown itself. A law enforcement source told the paper that the business Velez and the Cartalemis took over was Capital Waste Services, but the victim of the shakedown was not identified. It was unclear what involvement McGuire had in the company at that time.
Thirty arrests were made during morning raids. Dominick "Pepe" Pietranico, 82, and Pasquale P. Cartalemi Jr. have not yet been arrested but are expected to surrender this week, authorities said.
The arrests involve reputed members and associates of the Genovese, Gambino and Luchese crime families. They are expected to make initial appearances Thursday in federal court in Manhattan on multiple indictments that include charges of racketeering, extortion and loan sharking.
The defendants face prison terms ranging from five to 30 years.
At their arraignments, several suspects were clad in sweatpants, T-shirts, and, in one case, flip-flops. None of the defendants were expected to be held, while most still agreed to put up significant assets in exchange for their release.
Carmine Franco was ordered to post $1 million bond, while several other suspects were required to post lesser amounts, or $75,000 and $100,000 respectively.
They are all expected to enter pleas later, and lawyers for the men did not comment.
The gallery in the courtroom was standing-room only as relatives, lawyers and reporters packed in, and the arraignments stretched well into the evening.
The investigation was the latest effort by federal law enforcement authorities to rid the region's trash industry of the coercive efforts of organized crime.
One such probe in the late 1990s resulted in charges against seven men and 14 companies. Thomas Milo, head of Westchester's biggest firm, Suburban Carting, was imprisoned, and the county took significant steps to regulate the industry.
Five years ago, a similar probe by the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut resulted in 29 arrests in connection to trash routes in Fairfield and Putnam counties. James Galante, owner of more than 20 companies, was sentenced to 87 months in prison and forced to give up his 20 companies. Milo was accused of being Galante's silent partner in the case and pleaded guilty, serving another term in federal prison.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that in the latest case, "organized crime insinuated itself into the waste disposal industry throughout a vast swath of counties in New York and New Jersey, and the tactics they used to exert and maintain their control come right out of the mafia playbook -- extortion, intimidation, and threats of violence."
Carmine Franco, 77, a former West Nyack, N.Y., resident now living in Ramsey, N.J., once ran the beleaguered Ramapo town landfill and was banned from the trash business in New Jersey in the late 1990s after pleading guilty to illegally transferring garbage from Bergen County out of state. He was sentenced to nine months in jail, and he and companies under his control had to pay $11.5 million in penalties. Franco was among the defendants who agreed to pay a $4.7 million settlement in 1995 for the dumping of hazardous material years earlier at the Ramapo landfill.
Franco and 11 others are charged with engaging in racketeering to control various businesses in what the feds call the waste disposal enterprise.
Carmine Franco, Anthony Pucciarello, Howard Ross, Anthony Cardinalle, Peter Leconte, Frank Oliver, Charles Giustra, Pietranico, Sarcinella, William Cali, Scott Fappiano and Anthony Bazzini are alleged to be leaders and members of the enterprise who committed crimes to enhance its power, enrich members and keep victims and citizens in fear by threatening economic and physical harm, federal authorities said.
They contend that those defendants had either been banned from the carting industry or knew their Mob ties would make it impossible to get licenses to work in the business. But they were able to control trash-hauling businesses that were officially run by legitimate owners by dictating the spots where they could pick up garbage and by demanding payments for protection by organized crime, according to the indictment.
They are alleged to have defrauded customers and stolen property from competitors.
An additional 17 defendants are charged with various illegal activities in the waste-hauling industry, including extortion, mail and wire-fraud conspiracy, and interstate transportation of stolen property. Three New York City men were named in two related indictments, but those charges did not involve the carting industry.
Contributing: Journal News reporter Erik Shilling
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Read the original story: 32 charged in N.Y. Mob trash-hauling probe