Reputed Genovese family associate Carmine “Papa Smurf” Franco and a recently retired state police trooper from Peekskill were among 32 people indicted on federal charges this morning after a four-year investigation into organized crime’s influence on the carting industry in the New York metro area.
The list includes seven people from Westchester County, two from Rockland and one from Putnam.
The trooper, Mario Velez, a 20-year-veteran who worked out of the Cortlandt barracks and was a former school resource officer at Hendrick Hudson High School, is facing two extortion charges with Pasquale P. Cartalemi Jr., 50, and his son Pasquale L. Cartalemi, 27, of Cortlandt, for allegedly forcing a trash hauler to turn over his business to them in the fall of 2011.
Velez, 44, retired in October, under pressure, as the investigation by FBI agents, Westchester County and New York City police was underway, a source close to the investigation told The Journal News today. Sources said Velez worked with the Cartalemis at their family business, AAA Carting in Peekskill.
Other local residents charged in the 16-count indictment include Dominick “Pepe” Pietranico, 82, of Mahopac; Joseph Sarcinella, 78, of Greenburgh; Pasquale Carbone Sr., 70, of White Plains; Carmine Franco’s son Robert Franco, 50, of Hartsdale; Andrew McGuire, 29, of Hawthorne; Dominick Rao, 76, of Suffern; and Stephen Moscatello, 52, of Piermont.
McGuire, who state business records identify as the president of Capital Waste Services in Hawthorne, was charged with extortion conspiracy along with Velez and the Cartalemis but not in the alleged shakedown. A law enforcement source told the paper that the business Velez and the Cartalemis took over was Capital Waste Services, but the victim of the shakedown was not identified. It was unclear what involvement McGuire had in the company at that time.
Thirty arrests were made during morning raids. Pietranico and Pasquale P. Cartalemi have not yet been arrested but are expected to surrender this week, authorities said.
The arrests involve members and associates of the Genovese, Gambino and Luchese crime families. They are expected to make initial appearances this afternoon in federal court in Manhattan on multiple indictments that include charges of racketeering, extortion and loan sharking.
The defendants face prison terms ranging from five to 30 years.
The investigation was the latest effort by federal law enforcement authorities to rid the region’s trash industry of the coercive efforts of organized crime. One such probe in the late 1990s resulted in charges against seven men and 14 companies. Thomas Milo, head of Westchester’s biggest firm, Suburban Carting, was imprisoned, and the county took significant steps to regulate the industry. Five years ago, a similar probe by the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut resulted in 29 arrests in connection to trash routes in Fairfield and Putnam counties. James Galante, owner of more than 20 companies, was sentenced to 87 months in prison and forced to give up his 20 companies.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said “organized crime insinuated itself into the waste disposal industry throughout a vast swath of counties in New York and New Jersey, and the tactics they used to exert and maintain their control come right out of the mafia playbook – extortion, intimidation, and threats of violence.”
Carmine Franco, 77, a former West Nyack resident now living in Ramsey, N.J., once ran the beleaguered Ramapo town landfill and was banned from the trash business in New Jersey in the late 1990s after pleading guilty to illegally transferring garbage from Bergen County out of state. He was sentenced to nine months in jail, and he and companies under his control had to pay $11.5 million in penalties. Franco was among the defendants who agreed to pay a $4.7 million settlement in 1995 for the dumping of hazardous material years earlier at the Ramapo landfill.
Franco and 11 others are charged with engaging in racketeering to control various businesses in what the feds call the Waste Disposal Enterprise.
Carmine Franco, Anthony Pucciarello, Howard Ross, Anthony Cardinalle, Peter Leconte, Frank Oliver, Charles Giustra, Pietranico, Sarcinella, William Cali, Scott Fappiano and Anthony Bazzini were allegedly leaders and members of the enterprise who committed crimes to enhance its power, enrich members and keep victims and citizens in fear by threatening economic and physical harm, according to the feds.
Federal authorities contend that those defendants had either been banned from the carting industry or knew their mob ties would make it impossible to get licenses to work in the business. But they were able to control trash hauling businesses that were officially run by legitimate owners by dictating the spots where they could pick up garbage and by demanding payments for protection by organized crime, according to the indictment.
They also allegedly defrauded customers and stole property from competitors.
Another 17 defendants are charged with various illegal activities in the waste hauling industry, including extortion, mail and wire fraud conspiracy, and interstate transportation of stolen property. Three New York City men were named in two related indictments, but those charges did not involve the carting industry.
The indictment describes one trash hauler, identified only as a cooperating witness, who was caught in the middle of a turf war as he was controlled by four different organized crime crews. At one point, the Lodi Crew run by Genovese soldiers Pucciarello and Leconte wrested control of the Westchester business from Franco’s crew.
A third Genovese crew under Sarcinella and Pietranico, who operated another company after its manager was imprisoned, also got into the action. The two men allegedly provided protection to the cooperator and made loans to him at high interest rates, including one $12,500 loan for which they demanded 3 percent interest weekly, according to the indictment. Both men were arrested last year in connection with an alleged gambling ring in the Bronx.
The fourth crew was Bazzini, a Gambino soldier, and Fappiano, a Gambino associate. Fappiano, of Staten Island, served more than two decades in state prison for a rape he did not commit, and has won more than $2 million in lawsuits for that wrongful conviction. A year ago, he avoided a prison sentence after pleading guilty to extorting money from his wife’s ex-husband to collect a gambling debt.
Robert Franco and Moscatello allegedly stole garbage containers from trash companies in the Bronx on two occasions in January 2010. According to the indictment, Carmine Franco discussed those thefts with the cooperating witness the following month.
In March of that year, Robert Franco allegedly took 5 tons of stolen cardboard to a transfer station in West Nyack. Eight days later, according to the indictment, Carmine Franco was at the transfer station discussing the theft of the cardboard with the cooperating witness.
In a related indictment, Giustra is charged with conspiracy to transport cigarettes, drugs and stolen property. The stolen item was a hot dog cart, from Fred’s Franks, in Orangeburg, that was taken by two men on Sept. 30, 2010. Giustra was heard in a recorded conversation four days later telling the cooperating witness that he had only gotten $2,500 for the truck, according to the indictment.
Westchester County Police detectives participated with the FBI in the probe.
“The long-term partnership between the Westchester County police and federal law enforcement is an important means of combating organized crime and ensuring that businesses in Westchester are free to operate without fear of extortion or undue influence,” said Westchester County police commissioner George Longworth.