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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Like Tony Soprano, mob's ties to waste disposal business run deep

Tony SopranoTony SopranoNot for nothing was Tony Soprano a solid-waste management consultant.
The writers of the HBO series made New Jersey's most famous, albeit fictitious, wiseguy a player in an industry that for decades has been targeted for exploitation by organized crime.
In that respect, Soprano was a "garbage mobster," a term used by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation in a report made public last week that warned of the mob's continued presence in the multimillion-dollar waste-disposal business.
Decades after the problem was identified by law enforcement, and despite measures intended to block their involvement, mobsters are still in the trash game, according to the 47-page report.
That's because New Jersey has failed to provide the resources and manpower to enforce laws on the books and has not closed loopholes that allow wiseguys to avoid the licensure process, according to the commission.
Other jurisdictions with tighter controls - New York, for example - have chased their would-be garbage gangsters to the Garden State.
Now those same mobsters have branched out into the recycling business, an industry with even less regulation, the report found.
The mob has gone green. Only, in this case, "green" refers to cash.
The commission report, submitted to the governor and state legislature, recommends changes including tighter industry oversight, and more funding and manpower for state regulators.
It takes time, money, and resources, the report argued, to ferret out wiseguys. They hide behind straw companies and hidden ownerships. They serve as brokers, middlemen, and - like Soprano - consultants, who don't have to be licensed under current laws regulating trash hauling.
Mob involvement isn't unique to New Jersey's solid-waste industry. Organized crime investigations and prosecutions have documented mobsters in Pennsylvania trash companies for years.
In the current report, alleged Philadelphia mob boss Joe Ligambi, who awaits trial on racketeering, is cited as an example of the mob's "hidden hand" in the business.
Ligambi was on the payroll of a Philadelphia trash hauler from 2003 to 2010, the report found. He was paid $1,000 a week and had health benefits.
He did no work.
In the 1980s, the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission detailed the involvement of Scranton-Wilkes-Barre mob boss William "Big Billy" D'Elia in waste hauling and landfill management.
D'Elia surfaced again in the 1990s in a Philadelphia organized-crime investigation built around listening devices planted in the Camden office of defense attorney Salvatore Avena.
While the investigation focused on then-mob boss John Stanfa, one of Avena's clients, conversations recorded by the FBI in the lawyer's office included meetings that laid bare the mob's involvement in trash hauling.
At the time, Avena was a partner in AAA Trash, a Philadelphia company co-owned by Carmine Franco, who had been driven out of the New Jersey trash business because of his mob ties.
Avena complained on the tapes that Franco was stealing money from the business. Eventually, he filed a civil lawsuit, alleging several million dollars had been taken.
Franco was described by authorities as a major "earner" for New York's powerful Genovese crime family. Mob leaders there did not want a lawsuit that could expose their involvement.
They sent an emissary to talk Avena out of the suit.
The guy they tapped was Salvatore Profaci, a capo in the Colombo Family. Profaci's son was married to Avena's daughter, which added another "family" dimension.
Conversations picked up by the FBI included several in which Avena, D'Elia, and Profaci talked about the mob's role in the trash business and Franco's role as a major player. He was described as a "goodfella" whom Avena would be wise not to sue.
"We're all gonna get hurt," Profaci said, warning that the Genovese family was too powerful to cross.
Avena, perplexed, asked how Franco could get away with stealing from him, "just because he's a goodfella?"
Profaci's response was succinct and to the point.
"Goodfellas don't sue goodfellas," he replied. "Goodfellas kill goodfellas."
Tony Soprano couldn't have said it better. The lawsuit was quietly settled out of court.

http://articles.philly.com/2011-12-13/news/30512018_1_mob-boss-john-stanfa-joe-ligambi

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