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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Report claims link between Trenton recycling center and organized crime


A local trash-hauling firm locked in a long-running battle over a proposed recycling center on Breunig Avenue was singled out in a state report earlier this month for its purported ties to organized crime in New York.
The site, which is owned by F&M Holdings, currently serves as a depot for Central Jersey Waste & Recycling’s fleet of natural-gas-powered trucks. If the recycling center project moves forward, Central Jersey, which is owned by Frank Fiumefreddo Jr., would become its prime user.
While the debate over the recycling center has drawn little attention outside of Mercer County, Central Jersey Waste suddenly gained wider notoriety this month when the state Commission of Investigation noted in a report that the company was financed in part by Frank Fiumefreddo Sr., a former New York City trash hauler who pleaded guilty to a charge of violating antitrust laws in the 1990s and allegedly had ties to organized crime.
The back-and-forth tussle over the recycling center is based on a civic group’s desire to keep the facility out of its neighborhood, which it said would be marred by the industrial activity. The commission’s report is likely to escalate tensions in the debate.
The SCI report outlines what it describes as systemic failures of state regulations and licensing rules designed to prevent organized crime from gaining a foothold in the solid waste industry. The state requires solid waste haulers to register for a license that requires detailed personal and financial disclosure statements, fingerprinting and background checks.
“Frank J. Fiumefreddo Sr. is exactly the type of individual targeted for disqualification by the intent of New Jersey’s solid waste licensing statute,” the report read. “He is a convicted felon who was booted from the industry for life by authorities in New York.”
“But, undetected, Fiumefreddo Sr. crossed into New Jersey, avoided debarment here and continued to enrich himself by exploiting one of the system’s most troublesome loopholes,” the report said.
The two-year-old fight over the recycling center proposal has now reached a state appeals court after the civic group Eyes of Trenton challenged a Superior Court ruling that would have allowed the project to move forward.
The Mercer County freeholders voted last December to remove the recycling center from the county’s solid waste management plan, but a judge ruled in April that the freeholders had not followed proper procedures.
“It’s a really nice residential neighborhood. There’s a lot of kids that play on the street and it’s just another added intensive industrial use in the area that they don’t want,” said Michael Sinkevich, an attorney for Eyes of Trenton.
An attorney for F&M Holdings, which is also owned by a Fiumefreddo family member, maintained that the company has worked diligently on a plan to mitigate truck traffic and ensure the facility doesn’t affect neighbors’ quality of life.
Fiumefreddo Sr. accepted a plea deal after being indicted in New York on enterprise corruption, criminal antitrust and other charges stemming from an investigation into organized crime’s influence in the solid waste industry there. He was sentenced to five years probation, fined $235,000 and barred from the industry for life in New York, the report said.
The SCI report also notes that the elder Fiumefreddo was the business partner of a member of the Gambino crime family who, in 1990, was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison on mail fraud and racketeering charges.
In a written response, Fiumefreddo Sr. maintained that the report contains a number of factual errors and said his connection to the Gambino family was exaggerated.
“The link that the SCI makes between Frank Fiumefreddo Sr. and organized crime is tenuous at best and an awful long time in the past,” said Frank Boenning, an attorney for F&M Holdings. “So to then say that Central Jersey Waste is somehow linked to organized crime is just not true.”
In 2001, Fiumefreddo Sr. fronted most of the money needed for his son to assume day-to-day operations of Central Jersey through Premier Management Group, a consulting firm established by the son, the report said.
Two years later, Fiumefreddo Jr. bought Central Jersey outright while turning ownership of Premier Management Group and its consulting duties over to his father. When state officials learned of the elder Fiumefreddo’s involvement with Central Jersey through Premier, the state Department of Environmental Protection ordered him in 2004 not to have any “actual involvement in the business, direct or indirect” as a condition placed on Central Jersey’s license.
“Based on the commission’s findings, it is apparent that Fiumefreddo Sr. positioned himself within a consulting relationship so that his true hands-on role would not be disclosed,” the report read, noting that Premier Management was paid nearly $450,000 in fees.
In his response, Fiumefreddo Sr. said the consulting fees were paid prior to the DEP’s 2004 order and that any payments he received from the company were repayments of the loans he made.
“Since the (commission) has a copy of all of the accounting books and records of Central Jersey Waste from 2000 to 2010, it should be able to readily verify that fact,” he wrote.
Premier Management has since become Premier Food Waste Recycling Inc. According to Central Jersey’s website, Premier is a “sister company” of Central Jersey that provides services for more than 200 regional businesses. The two companies share offices on Stokes Avenue in Ewing.
“If Central Jersey customers want food waste recycling services, they will refer them to or subcontract them to Premier Food Waste Recycling,” Boenning said. “They work closely together. Obviously, they’re father and son.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether subcontracting services to Premier would constitute “actual involvement in the business, direct or direct,” as stipulated in Central Jersey’s license, and Boenning could not say whether such an arrangement has actually taken place.
Sinkevich said the findings of the state’s report were troubling.
“If this is true, it definitely raises issues that are of concern to the community,” he said. But he said the report would likely have no bearing on the upcoming appellate court hearing, where the judge will be asked only to consider only the arguments made previously in Superior Court.
“We don’t know what exactly to make out of it,” Sinkevich said. “It certainly raises issues of concern, but I’m not sure it’s specific to the issues that are going to be argued.”
Central Jersey Waste & Recycling provides services for dozens of towns across the region and is currently entering the last year of a four-year contract with the Mercer County Improvement Authority for curbside recycling collection in 10 county municipalities. The company is due $2.28 million from MCIA in 2012.
MCIA executive director Phil Miller said he was not aware of all the details in the SCI report, but said none of the findings made him question the authority’s decision to award the contract to Central Jersey Waste.
“From our standpoint when we publicly bid, the company needs to be qualified,” he said. “They bid it and they came in as the lowest qualified bidder. We’ve had no problems.
They’ve collected recyclables and have been very responsive to our needs. The report has no bearing on the job they’ve been doing for us.”

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2011/12/report_claims_link_between_tre.html


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