Arrests made in trash hauling scheme
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, George C. Venizelos, the assistant director-in-charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and George N. Longworth, the commissioner of the Westchester County Police Department announced the unsealing of charges against 32 individuals as part of a multi-year investigation into organized crime’s alleged continuing control of large aspects of the commercial waste-hauling industry in the greater New York City metropolitan area and in parts of New Jersey.
The main indictment charges 12 defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise that asserted illegal and extortionate control over commercial waste-hauling companies, and 17 other defendants with individual acts of extortion, loansharking and other crimes associated with those activities. The charges are contained in three indictments, United States v. Franco, et al., United States v. Giustra, et al., and United States v. Lopez.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “As alleged, organized crime still wraps its tentacles around industries it has fed off for decades, 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. And while these accused mobsters may have hidden themselves behind seemingly legitimate owners of waste disposal businesses, law enforcement was able to pierce that veil through its painstaking, multi-year investigation. Organized crime has many victims – in this case small business owners who pay for waste removal, potential competitors and the communities infected by this corruption and its cost. Organized crime is in a losing battle and we and our law enforcement partners remain committed to its extinction.”
The following allegations are based on the indictments and statements made in Manhattan federal court:
Twelve of the defendants, who are members and associates of three different organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra (LCN) – the Genovese, Gambino and Luchese Crime Families – are charged with participating in a RICO enterprise in which they worked together to control various waste disposal businesses in the New York City metropolitan area and multiple counties in New Jersey.
The Waste Disposal Enterprise was a criminal organization the members of which engaged in crimes including extortion, loansharking, mail and wire fraud, and stolen property offenses. Carmine Franco, Anthony Pucciarello, Howard Ross, Anthony Cardinalle, Peter Leconte, Frank Oliver, Charles Giustra, Dominick Pietranico, Joseph Sarcinella, William Cali, Scott Fappiano and Anthony Bazzini (Enterprise members) were leaders and members of the Waste Disposal Enterprise who committed crimes as part of the racketeering conspiracy in order to accomplish the Enterprise’s goals of enhancing its power, financially enriching its members and keeping its victims – including small business owners and potential competitors – in check by threatening economic and physical harm.
Waste Disposal Enterprise members avoided any official connection to the waste disposal businesses they controlled because they were either officially banned from the waste hauling industry, or unlikely to be granted the necessary licenses required to do business in the waste hauling industry because of their affiliations with organized crime. Accordingly, Enterprise members concealed themselves behind waste disposal businesses that were officially owned and operated by non-Enterprise members (Controlled Owners), who were able to obtain the necessary licenses because they had no known affiliations with organized crime. Ultimately, Enterprise members exerted control over these waste disposal businesses by, among other things, dictating which trash pick-up stops that a particular hauling company could use and extorting payments in exchange for protection by individuals associated with organized crime. By asserting and enforcing purported “property rights” over the trash pick-up routes, the Enterprise members excluded any competitor that might offer lower prices or better service, in effect imposing a criminal tax on businesses and communities. Separately, some of the Controlled Owners were also committing crimes, including stealing property of competing waste disposal businesses and defrauding businesses of their customers.
The operation of the Waste Disposal Enterprise was coordinated by and among factions of the LCN families through the use of “sit-downs” to determine which faction would control a particular waste disposal company and established the financial terms upon which control of that company could be transferred from one faction to another in return for payment.
During the time period alleged in the Indictment, Enterprise members extorted a Controlled Owner, who, unknown to them, was a cooperating witness (CW). The CW incorporated a waste removal company (CW Company) that ultimately was controlled by a number of different factions of the Waste Disposal Enterprise.
At various times, the CW Company was under the control of Carmine Franco, a Genovese crime family associate who was banned by New Jersey authorities from maintaining any involvement in the waste hauling business in that state due to prior criminal convictions. A Genovese crime family crew based principally in Lodi, New Jersey (Lodi Crew), which included Genovese Family soldiers Anthony Pucciarello and Peter Leconte, as well as Genovese family associates Anthony Cardinalle, Howard Ross, and Frank Oliver, subsequently wrested control of the CW’s waste company from Franco, and further extorted the CW for weekly payments for “protection” from other LCN factions. In addition, at various times, a different faction of the Genovese crime family – led by Genovese soldiers Dominick Pietranico and Joseph Sarcinella – and a Gambino crime family crew – including Gambino family soldier Anthony Bazzini and associate Scott Fappiano – controlled the CW’s waste hauling company.
In addition to the 12 defendants charged as members of the Waste Disposal Enterprise, 17 of the defendants are charged with carrying out various illegal activities in relation to the waste hauling industry. These illegal activities include: extortion, mail and wire fraud conspiracy, and interstate transportation of stolen property.
U.S. District Judges P. Kevin Castel, Colleen McMahon, and Laura Taylor Swain have been assigned to this case.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arianna R. Berg, Natalie Lamarque and Brian R. Blais are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin S. Bell of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit is responsible for the forfeiture of assets.
The charges contained in the indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.