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JULY 2006


Waste hauling empire trashed by investigations

A collaborative investigation by Federal and Connecticut authorities ended in the unsealing of a 117-count indictment that charged 29 individuals and several entities with numerous violations of Federal law. The investigation centered on James Galante and his involvement in a state-wide property rights system. Of the 60 companies under scrutiny, Galante is associated with at least 25.

The property rights system, rumored to have been in place in Connecticut since the 1980s, involves haulers claiming a “property right” for certain areas or stops. Participating haulers agree to respect other haulers’ territory by not competing in that area, or placing a pre-arranged losing bid when requested by customers.

Supposedly, enforcement for the system comes from the organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra (LCN). Members of LCN back the waste haulers, who in turn dole out “tribute” payments, or what amounts to a mob tax. The mob connections allow for the established haulers to suppress new competition or intimidate rivals with threats of physical and/or economic punishment.

Galante is charged with 72 counts of racketeering, extortion, witness tampering, RICO conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and tax and conspiracy charges. Galante, along with Thomas Milo, owns Automated Waste Disposal (AWD) and several subsidiaries, and also own a local hockey team, the Danbury Trashers.

Galante also stands accused of defrauding the United Hockey League (UHL) by breaking the $275,000 salary cap. He paid Trashers players by listing them as employees of AWD and other companies. Allegedly, with the players salaries from AWD, the payroll of the team was nearly $750,000. The Trashers have suspended operations, purportedly due to their close rivals, the Adirondack Frostbite, also suspending operations.

Galante’s downfall was brought about by an investigation led by FBI agent Kimberly Mertz that had been ongoing since 2003. The case against Galante advanced thanks to an undercover FBI agent who worked in the trash hauling industry for over a year and also worked in Galante’s companies for 22 days. The agent gave probable cause to tap company phones and intercept over 100,000 phone calls.

Also indicted was former Waterbury mayor Joseph Santopietro, who was a consultant for Galante’s businesses and, according to prosecutors, helped Galante maintain the property rights system.

According to the United States Attorney, the investigation is still ongoing. Of the 29 arrested, 28 posted bail and went home. Galante, however, is being held without bail until his trial.

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