The FBI and police in the New York City area have arrested "Papa Smurf," "Uncle Sonny," "Joe Cali" and nearly 30 other alleged mobsters from three major crime families and charged with running an extortion racket that the government calls "the Waste Disposal Enterprise."
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, alleged in three interlocking indictments that the defendants, who were arrested in predawn raids in New York and New Jersey, controlled several garbage-hauling businesses in five suburban counties.
"Organized crime still wraps its tentacles around industries it has fed off for decades," said Bharara, "but law enforcement continues to pry loose its grip. Here, as described in the indictments, 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."
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George C. Venizelos said that "the indictments show the ongoing threat posed by mob families and their criminal associates. In addition to the violence that often accompanies their schemes, the economic impact amounts to a mob tax on goods and services. The arrests – the culmination of a long and thorough investigation – also show the ongoing determination of the FBI to diminishing the influence of La Cosa Nostra."
According to the indictments, members of the enterprise avoided any official connection to the waste disposal business because they were banned from the industry or unlikely to be licensed.
Charges against the alleged mobsters include racketeering, extortion, mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to transport stolen property.
One of those arrested, 44-year-old Mario Velez of Peekskill, recently retired as a trooper from the New York State Police. He also served as the school resource officer at Hendrick Hudson High School.
Velez is believed to have committed the acts while he was still a state trooper. He is charged with extortion.
A key defendant is Carmine Franco, who is alleged to have owned or controlled a number of waste disposal industries for over 30 years.
"Franco extorted the proceeds of those businesses from the Controlled Owners , directed and participated in the theft and interstate transportation of property associated with those businesses" and met with other members of the criminal enterprise, the government alleged. One form of meeting, says the government, was the classic mob "sitdown," where members with conflicting claims would determine who could have an ownership interest in a particular company.
The defendants allegedly used some of the named owners, dubbed "controlled owners" of the businesses, to guarantee debts owed to the business. They also extended loans at extortionate rates, and according to the government, stole trucks, and stole waste containers from competing companies.