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Monday, January 10, 2011

Haulers and the Mob Have Long History

In New York City, they torched a rival's truck when it ventured into the wrong territory.
In Westchester County, N.Y., they were accused of rigging prices for garbage pick-up and holding backroom meetings to carve out routes, making it impossible for rivals to come in. They are mobsters and they've had a foothold in the region's trash hauling industry since the 1950s. Both New York City and Westchester County have seen their share of FBI and Internal Revenue Service raids of trash businesses, similar to raids that have taken place in Connecticut this week. New York City and Westchester set up agencies to chase out the mob and keep the trash industry clean. In New York City, it was the Trade Waste Commission - now known as the Business Integrity Commission. In Westchester County, it is the Solid Waste Commission. In Connecticut - there's nothing. That's despite the cries of state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has tried unsuccessfully for years to get the General Assembly to pass a bill regulating the trash industry. "Unfortunately there is no license requirement now" for trash-hauling companies, Blumenthal said. He said his office is currently investigating several haulers. "I've advocated a licensing system going back to 2001," he said. Blumenthal said at least two investigations of haulers - in Stamford and Hartford - revealed signs of organized crime involvement. "I don't want to generalize about the entire industry, but it certainly has provided opportunities for law enforcement," Blumenthal said. While law enforcement authorities are keeping their mouths shut as to why a cadre of FBI and IRS agents raided more than a dozen trash hauling businesses in Connecticut and New York state on Tuesday and Wednesday, the raids are nothing new to guys like Thomas McCormick and Thomas Abinanti. McCormick is the chairman of the New York City Business Integrity Commission. Created by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1996, the group sounds like the fictionalized crew thar took down Al Capone in the movie "The Untouchables." Made up of New York Police Department organized crime detectives, sanitation bureaucrats, city lawyers, even forensic accountants, the commission drove the Mafia out of the New York City trash industry in the 1990s. Abinanti, meanwhile, is a Westchester County legislator who took the New York City model and adapted it in Westchester after a criminal indictment revealed the trash industry was dominated by a company linked to organized crime. "Everybody was scared," Abinanti said. "Everybody said you couldn't do it. But Giuliani showed you could. Giuliani showed that a local government could pass these regulations." In New York City, the mob controlled the sanitation industry since the 1950s, when the city forced commercial property owners to hire private trash haulers. The city's five organized crime families had already infiltrated transportation unions such as the Teamsters. They moved easily into trash. According to court documents and longtime observers, here's how the system worked: Organized crime families carved the city into zones and dictated routes for the private haulers. The trash companies were forbidden to move out of their territories and had to make payoffs to the mob - giving organized crime a monopoly in the city. Any beefs over routes were settled by mobsters. They had customers sign "evergreen" contracts - agreements that never had an end. Crime families skimmed profits from garbage transfer stations by falsifying invoices, tampering with weigh scales, even blatantly stealing cash. Transfer stations - where fees are almost always paid in cash - became places to hide money and evade paying taxes. The mob's grip on the New York City sanitation business was so tight and went on for so long, most customers never realized they were paying more for trash hauling then they should have. The city finally managed to break the grip of organized crime through a series of undercover investigations - which started after a mobster torched a garbage truck of a business rival. A 1995 indictment from the Manhattan district attorney finally revealed how the mob did business. The indictment gave city government the information it needed to create the Trade Waste Commission, now known as the Business Integrity Commission. The commission licenses and regulates trash haulers. The commission does background checks to make sure the hauler and its leaders haven't been mentioned in criminal investigations. First, detectives comb through arrest records and files from old police investigations. Then the lawyers take a look at what the cops have collected. In some cases, accountants familiar with the way mobsters skim profits from trash haulers will analyze the company books to make sure everything is on the up and up. If you have a mob background, you're probably not going to collect trash in the city. "It reinforces the notion to the industry that this has become a heavily-regulated industry," said McCormick, head of the New York City Business Integrity Commission. "There are criminal investigations that can ensue from our findings," McCormick said. "There are administrative hearings that can ensue from our findings. They are no longer out there conspiring with mobsters." One bonus - trash bills in the city decreased some 50 percent since the commission was created. In Westchester County, N.Y., a criminal indictment and then conviction of Thomas Milo, the former owner of Suburban Carting in Mamaroneck, N.Y., revealed similar mob control. "The indictment showed we had a real problem," said Abinanti, a Democrat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators. Abinanti lobbied the county government to hold hearings on the trash industry. "We had companies come in and say they wanted to get into the field but couldn't do so because of the practices," Abinanti said. "We had some anonymous testimony because they were afraid of retribution." Abinanti's efforts led to the creation of the Solid Waste Commission. It conducts background checks of trash haulers and the owners. It also maintains a list of licensed haulers. Abinanti said there is still some questionable activity in Westchester County; this week the FBI raided Suburban Carting in Westchester. But, he said, the commission "is a step in the right direction. I'm pleased with the way it has worked so far."

http://www.dariennewsonline.com/news/article/Haulers-mob-have-long-history-52379.php

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