Waste hauling empire trashed by
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
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
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
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.