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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Aging mobster refuses to tell authorities any information on Gardner museum heist

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/04/25/arts/25GARDINER/25GARDINER-master1050.jpg
A recent brush with death didn't yield the confession investigators had hoped for from a Connecticut mobster suspected of knowing the whereabouts of $500 million worth of masterworks stolen from a Boston museum decades ago.

If Robert Gentile knows anything about the art taken in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, he proved last month he's willing to take it to the grave.

The 80-year-old "Bobby the Cook" Gentile, who is in federal custody awaiting trial on gun charges, was "on his death bed" in September when his attorney rushed to a South Carolina hospital to ask him -- one last time -- the question no one has answered to date.

"I said, 'If you've ever had the paintings, give them up.' But he said there's no paintings," his attorney, Ryan McGuigan, told FoxNews.com Tuesday.

"I believe him, but the FBI doesn't," McGuigan said. "There are a lot of people who don't believe him and they are very intelligent people. I disagree with them, respectfully."

McGuigan flew to the South Carolina hospital, he said, because he was "open to the possibility that my client might be withholding something."

"If there was ever a chance to say it, that was it," he said. "I do certainly know the importance of this art to humanity."

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: THE GREATEST ART HEIST OF ALL TIME

What role, if any, Gentile played in the most infamous art heist in American history is unclear. His health has improved, and he is still not talking.

It was just after midnight on March 18, 1990, when two men dressed as police officers buzzed the side door at the Boston museum and claimed they were there to investigate a disturbance.

A little more than an hour later, the men left with what is said to be the most valuable collection of stolen artwork in history: $580 million worth of famous works, including Rembrandt's only seascape, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee," and Vermeer's "The Concert," a masterpiece valued at more than $200 million.

The two men who broke into the museum -- hours after Boston celebrated St. Patrick's Day -- had "inside knowledge" of the museum's surveillance system, FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly previously told FoxNews.com.

The suspects, described as white men in their 30s, convinced two inexperienced security guards that they were responding to a call, before overtaking the guards and tying them up.

They spent 81 minutes inside the museum, walking the dark hallways before making their way to the Dutch Room, where the most valuable works hung.The pair smashed glass and used box cutters to remove the masterpieces from their frames. In all, 13 priceless items were taken: three paintings by Rembrandt including, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee," five drawings by Degas, and Vermeer's "The Concert" -- said to be the most valuable stolen painting in the world.

The thieves also snatched an ancient Chinese bronze beaker or "Ku" from the Shang Dynasty and a finial that once stood atop a flag from Napoleon's Army.

Gentile became a focus of the investigation in 2009 when the widow of Robert Guarente, another person of interest in the theft -- told the FBI that Guarente and Gentile had at least two of the stolen works before Guarente's death from cancer in 2004.

Another mobster, Robert “Bobby” Luisi Jr., told The Boston Globe in July that Guarente had said the paintings were buried under the cement slab foundation of a home in Florida.

McGuigan said Guarente may have had the paintings, but his client insists they did not come from him.

"He's denied ever having the paintings and he's denied knowing the whereabouts of the paintings," McGuigan said. "He hasn't denied knowing the people who at one point had possession of the paintings."

"This whole case [against Gentile] comes down to this woman saying her husband gave him the paintings," McGuigan added. "Anybody who had these paintings would hold onto them because the possession of them is power. You'd be giving up the keys to the kingdom. It doesn't make any sense."

The FBI said in 2013 that it knows who pulled off the biggest art heist in history, but it isn't naming names. And as for what became of the $580 million worth of masterpieces stolen exactly 26 years ago from a Boston museum, investigators say that trail went cold a decade ago.

The FBI said in March 2013 it would be "imprudent" to disclose the identities of the thieves who stole 13 works of art from the museum but said they belong to a criminal organization. Investigators said they believe the artwork has "changed hands several times" over the years.

"The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft," Special Agent Richard DesLauriers told reporters in March 2013.

"With that same confidence we have identified the thieves who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England," he said.

An FBI spokesman was not immediately available when contacted Wednesday.

Gentile is currently in prison facing a federal gun charge he says the FBI contrived to force him to disclose the location of the artwork. In May, FBI agents swarmed a Connecticut home owned by Gentile, digging up the yard looking for any evidence.

According to the Boston Globe, a federal prosecutor said in court earlier this year that Gentile last year offered to sell the paintings to an undercover FBI agent for $500,000 a piece. Gentile also failed a polygraph exam when questioned about the heist and current whereabouts of the paintings, the prosecutor said.

When asked about Gentile's alleged contact with an FBI agent last year, McGuigan told FoxNews.com, "I don't know that to be true." When questioned by the Globe in an Oct. 1 article, McGuigan reportedly said Gentile was "just pretending" to have the paintings.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/10/27/taking-it-to-grave-aging-mobster-mum-on-possible-role-in-500m-art-heist.html

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bullets fly and another wiseguy is dead in Montreal

Vincenzo Spagnolo
A man believed to have had close ties to former crime boss Vito Rizzuto was gunned down in Laval on Saturday, in what police described as a "settling of accounts."
Vincenzo Spagnolo, 65, was killed at his home in the city's Vimont neighbourhood, sources told Radio-Canada.
Spagnolo reputedly served as Rizzuto's right-hand man when he had control over the Montreal Mafia.
Rizzuto, the longtime patriarch of the Montreal Mafia, died of natural causes in 2013.
André Cédilot, an organized crime expert, said the pair met regularly when Rizzuto ran the city's organized crime circuit.
In the early 2000s, when Rizzutto was in prison, they kept in touch by phone, Cédilot said.
Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau said the shooting appeared to be linked to a "settling of accounts" within the Mafia.
Shooting death Laval
The shooting happened in Saturday's Vimont neighbourhood. 

Laval police were called to the scene at around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, and Quebec provincial police later took over the investigation.
A security perimeter was installed near the intersection of Arthur-Mignault and Antoine-Forestier streets.
The Rizzuto crime family, once considered one of the most powerful in Canada, has been in an extended period of upheaval.
In May, another reputed high-ranking member, Rocco Sollecito, was gunned down in Laval.
Three months earlier, another alleged Rizzuto lieutenant, Lorenzo "Skunk" Giordano, was killed.
Leonardo Rizzuto, Vito Rizzuto's son, was arrested in organized crime raids last November.
His brother Nick Jr. and grandfather Nicolo were shot dead in separate incidents in 2010. 

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/montreal-mafia-vincenzo-spagnolo-1.3807439

Thursday, October 20, 2016

John Gotti's grandson appears in court for drug case


The Dapper Don’s namesake grandson paid no homage to his heritage in court Wednesday, clad in crumpled jumpsuit and smudged glasses.

Twenty-three-year-old John Gotti’s past bravado was nowhere to be found as he stood limply before Queens Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Melendez.

His mob scion dad, Peter Gotti, looked on as his son appeared stoically alongside his lawyer Gerard Marrone–who hinted that a plea deal might be in the works.

“I’m sorry, I can’t talk” the father later said outside the courtroom while standing with his wife, who declined to comment. “That’s my child.”

“If it was me it’d be different, but because he’s my kid I don’t want to talk,” Gotti mumbled. He added his son is “doing fine” behind bars.

While Marrone has previously said he didn’t request protective custody for his “tough-guy” client — Gotti was sporting the tell-tale orange garb Wednesday.

The young Gotti has also been getting help with his pain-killer addiction while in Rikers, according to the attorney.

The tatted-up mob-offspring was nabbed in August after cops raided his late grandfather’s Howard Beach home, and uncovered a trove of dough and drugs.

That case has since been consolidated with a June arrest, in which authorities allege to have found a Gucci bag with more than 200 Oxycodone pills and other drugs in the beefy youth’s car console.

Gotti is facing anywhere between 15 to 25 years-to-life in prison, if convicted of the felony charges.

He’s scheduled to return to court Dec. 21.

http://nypost.com/2016/10/20/disheveled-gotti-grandson-appears-in-court-for-drug-case/

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mother of Colombo family prince begs judge for leniency

Michael Persico - son of Colombo boss Carmine Persico and brother of former acting boss Alphonse Persico - arriving at Federal Court in Brooklyn for a bail hearing.
Reputed mafia prince Michael Persico has enlisted his 80-year-old mother to beg a federal judge not to send her son to prison.

“I am getting older and need my son around,” Joyce Persico wrote to Brooklyn Federal Judge Dora Irizarry.

“He helps me with everything. I am scared that if he is sent to prison I will never see him again outside of that place.”

The matriarch of the mobbed-up clan has seen a lot of family members go off to prison. Her husband, Carmine "The Snake" Persico, 83, the boss of the Colombo crime family, was convicted in 1987 in the so-called Commission trial and is serving a 100-year sentence for racketeering and murder.

Her son Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, 62, is serving a life sentence for murder. A third son, Lawrence, 61, did time for a no-show union job, but is out now and was recently employed as a pizza deliveryman in Brooklyn.

Joyce Persico's letter was part of an 88-page filing of letters to Judge Irizarry from friends, family members, and business associates of Michael Persico.

Michael Persico, 60, pleaded guilty to loansharking more than four years ago — it was his first felony conviction — and will finally be sentenced on Nov. 2.

Federal prosecutors say he is a powerful associate in the crime family and participated in the 1993 conspiracy to kill Colombo rival Joseph Scopo during the Colombo civil war, but Perscio was never charged with Scopo’s murder.

The judge is not bound by a plea agreement for Persico in which the sentencing guidelines were 37 to 46 months in prison.

Irizarry could slam Persico with up to five years in prison if she takes into account the uncharged Scopo murder.

Joyce's husband, Carmine "The Snake" Persico, the boss of the Colombo crime family, was convicted in 1987.

Joyce Persico’s letter was buried on page 68 of an 88-page filing of letters to Irizarry from friends, family members, and business associates of Michael Persico filed last week in Brooklyn Federal Court.

“Throughout his life, Michael has been a loving son to me and our family and a doting father to all his children,” she wrote.

A sentencing memorandum from Michael’s lawyers states that Joyce Persico suffers from emphysema and severe rheumatoid arthritis.

“It is clear from these letters that Mr. Persico has always endeavored to conduct himself in a law-abiding manner and has struggled to overcome the infamy of his last name and blood relations,” his lawyers told the judge.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/exclusive-nyc-mobster-runs-mom-prison-article-1.2833044

Notorious mobster Al Capone's final years detailed in new book

Al Capone, public enemy No. 1 and the most powerful gangster of the Prohibition era, spent the last years of his life in seclusion at his house in Florida. He fished from his boat, doted on his grandchildren, dined on his wife Mae’s spaghetti — and had imaginary conversations with long-dead mobsters, some of who, he’d had killed.

His brain ravaged by a syphilis infection that had gone untreated, he had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. The man who once ruled the Chicago Outfit, a multimillion-dollar bootlegging and racketeering empire that spanned North America, was just happy to be taken to the drugstore to buy a pack of Dentyne gum.

The gangster’s last years are detailed in Deirdre Bair’s new biography, “Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend.” Bair drew on interviews with Capone’s grandchildren and other relatives, most of whom preferred to remain anonymous, to dispel many of the myths that have long swirled around Al “Scarface” Capone.

One example: Capone had his huge swimming pool stocked with fish and spent his afternoons in his pajamas catching them. Though widely reported at the time, the story is false. There were no fish in the pool, but Capone enjoyed walking around his property with his granddaughters, looking for butterflies.

“It was, in many ways, an ideal, middle-class Italian-American household where family came first,” says Bair, who’s written acclaimed biographies of Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Carl Jung. “It was much different from the lavish life he led when he was at the top of the world.”

That’s partly because Capone was broke, Bair reports. In the 1920s, his yearly income was estimated at $40 million. But he ran the Outfit for only six years. He spent most of the 1930s in jail for tax evasion. When he was released in 1940, the Outfit gave him a salary of $600 a week, hardly enough to support his family, house and staff.
The swimming pool at the former home of Al Capone.

Newspaper reports that Capone secretly controlled the Outfit from behind the walls of his Palm Island compound may have originated from the occasional flashes he had of his glory years, as well as those imaginary conversations he had with old cronies. Reporters camped outside the gates of his house and turned any scrap of gossip into a headline.

“If you want to make a parallel,” Bair tells The Post, “it’s like cable news today, with all those pundits talking about the election even when nothing is happening. But the truth is, the Outfit had utterly marginalized him.”

Mae, Capone’s wife, probably saved his life by keeping him isolated.

“She knew that it was dangerous for him to go out in public,” Bair says.

An angry public outburst, caused by his syphilis-addled mind, would have been fraught with peril. If the Outfit got wind he was nattering on about old business, he was a dead man. And if a judge heard Capone was violent, he could have been confined to a mental home.

“Mae was a ferocious protector,” Bair says. “The Outfit knew he was cloistered and that Mae wouldn’t let him become a problem for them. And Mae knew all about the Outfit. She was one of those wives who made spaghetti for Al and the gang at 3 in the morning when they did business back when he was in charge. She must have heard everything.”



Capone died in bed on the morning of Jan. 25, 1947. The cause was bronchial pneumonia. His death made front pages around the world, but the funeral was a modest affair, Bair writes, because the Outfit allowed only a few of Capone’s old friends to attend.

Mae clung to the Palm Island house until 1952, when reduced circumstances forced her to sell it. It sold two years ago for $7.4 million and can now be rented for film shoots or private functions.

Mae died at 89 in 1986. Not long before her death, she put a match to her diaries and the love letters Capone sent her from prison.

She was, Bair says, “protective of him to the end.”

http://nypost.com/2016/10/16/isolation-madness-and-syphilis-inside-al-capones-final-years/

Saturday, October 15, 2016

High ranking Pittsburgh turncoat mobster dies at 82

Charles Chucky Porter Charles J. "Chucky" Porter, center in black jacket, and other defendants are led from the back door of the courthouse in 1990 after being convicted on racketeering charges.
Charles "Chucky" Porter, the Pittsburgh mafia chieftain who gave the FBI an insider's picture of the mob from prison and helped avert a half-dozen killings around the country, died Tuesday at 82.
He spent the last 16 years at his big Penn Hills house, living quietly with his wife Joyce after serving less than half of his 28-year sentence for racketeering.
A judge in 2000 let him out early as a reward for his cooperation. He was the highest-ranking La Cosa Nostra member here to ever turn informant.
For a man who in his own words had become a "rat" - normally a death sentence in the world of La Cosa Nostra - he seemed to have lived the remainder of his life unharmed.
He and his wife went out to dinner with other couples and entertained at their home, which is equipped with a large bar.
Porter was injured in a car crash in 2001 that authorities initially thought might have been an attempted hit, but by all appearances it was an accident.
Long a diabetic with kidney problems, Porter died of natural causes, although the exact cause was not revealed.
His son, criminal defense attorney Charles J. Porter, and other family members did not respond to messages for comment this week.
The elder Porter, a former mailman from Etna, was a ferocious brawler and enforcer in his early days and in later years traded on his reputation for violence to control his underlings. At sentencing a quarter century ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman called him "one of the most dangerous individuals ever to appear" in federal court here.
But he had redeeming qualities that many other mobsters lacked. The FBI came to respect him for his manners, his devotion to his four children and his sense of integrity.
"There were two sides to Charles Porter," said Roger Greenbank, a retired FBI agent who led the investigation into the mafia here in the 1980s. "There was the tough guy, the barroom brawler. And then he settled down. This guy was different [than most mob members]. He was a family man."
An old-school mobster who favored suit coats and vests, he seemed to understand that he and his FBI tormentors had roles to play in a larger game of catch-me-if-you-can at a time when the Justice Department was cracking down on the mob nationwide.
When an agent served him with a subpoena at his apartment early in the investigation, the agent got a surprise.
“Porter invited him in, asked him if he wanted anything, if he wanted a cup of coffee," said Mr. Greenbank. "He was very polite to him."
Former agent Bob Garrity once recalled how Porter told him of organized crime, "You know, we're not as organized as you think we are." Mr. Garrity responded with his own observation of the FBI: "Well, we're not as smart as you think we are."
Porter, former underboss to the late Mike Genovese and among the most powerful figures in the Pittsburgh underworld, was the top catch along with lieutenant Louis Raucci in the government's landmark 1990 prosecution of La Cosa Nostra in Western Pennsylvania.
He later cooperated with the Pittsburgh FBI for eight years from prisons in New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Maryland. His assistance allowed the FBI to warn the targets of impending mob hits in Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere and also revealed the mob's inner workings.
To reward him, prosecutors took the extraordinary step of asking a federal judge to let him out early. His son tearfully testified on his behalf in asking for his release.
In his heyday, Porter was a national organized crime figure who supervised a cocaine, loan-sharking and gambling empire stretching into Ohio and West Virginia and used his position as a "man of respect" to mediate mob disputes from Philadelphia to Chicago.
He and Raucci, of Verona, served as the "right and left hands" of Genovese, long the reputed head of the Pittsburgh family until his death in 2006.
Despite being only part Italian — his mother was Italian, his father Irish — he became a made man in 1986 and was being groomed in that decade by Genovese for leadership. Like any good drug boss, he insulated himself from cocaine dealing even though he was plainly orchestrating the entire operation with a combination of intimidation and street smarts.
In court, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Teitelbaum told U.S. District Judge Donald Ziegler that drugs never passed through Porter's hands, but "he was there pulling the strings of the managers of the drug deals."
Outsiders also knew he was a player.
In 1986, the Philadelphia mob leaders, including boss Nicodemo Scarfo, came to the mafia's hangout at the Holiday House in Monroeville to settle a dispute with the Pittsburgh family, which had been shaking down a Clairton bookmaker who was Scarfo's brother-in-law, and to ask if the Pittsburgh family wanted to invest in video jukeboxes.
Philip Leonetti, underboss to Scarfo, said in court that Porter was among the Pittsburgh family members at the meeting and talked about how close he was to Genovese, handling loan-sharking and extortion of drug dealers and bookies.
In the end, the families cut a deal so that Philadelphia would get a cut of the bookmaker's earnings.
"The next morning we had surveillance and we saw Genovese and Porter walking around, just the two of them," said Mr. Greenbank. "Chucky was point man for the family on that meeting."
Born in 1933, Porter grew up in Etna with two siblings, Billy and Eleanor, and graduated from Central Catholic High School, where he was on the rifle team.
"I always found that interesting," said Mr. Greenbank.
In the 1950s he served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Korean War, then became a letter carrier in his hometown. He gravitated towards gambling and by the 1960s he was in charge of gambling operations at clubs in Lawrenceville, the East End and elsewhere.
He had a penchant for fighting, getting into brawls along with fellow mobsters John Leone and Eugene "Nick the Blade" Gesuale in bars in Shadyside and Downtown. The first major crime in the 1990 indictment came in 1967, when he and Paul Mazzei, the "Pittsburgh connection" portrayed in the movie "Goodfellas," robbed a finance company on Penn Avenue. In later years he became a regular at the Beacon Club in Squirrel Hill, where he collected from bookmakers and loanshark customers.
In one 1977 incident, he and Leone went to the Razzberry Rhinoceros in Shadyside to collect a sports bet. The men got into a fight in which Porter beat a man with a baseball bat and Leone gouged a man's eye with a broken wine glass.
As he rose through the ranks of organized crime, Porter settled into family life. He had three children with his first wife, Barbara: Charles, Michael and Linda. He also had a daughter, Tiffany, from another relationship.
Porter always supported Tiffany; at his sentencing, she was 14 when she pleaded for leniency for him.
The children were largely insulated from his life of crime, sources said, although the mob life was ever-present. When Charles Jr. graduated from law school in the mid-1980s, his father threw a big party at the house attended by many mobsters and associates, according to the FBI. One of them was Joe Bertone, a mob associate and McKeesport restaurant owner seen in earlier surveillance with Porter at the Holiday House. He disappeared the day after the party and has never been found.
Porter grew in stature throughout the 1980s, becoming close with former mob boss John LaRocca, who died in 1984, and with Genovese. It all ended with the 1990 indictment.
It was the largest prosecution ever of the Pittsburgh Mafia and largely dismantled a family that had dominated the local rackets and influenced labor unions and politics here since the bootlegging days of the 1920s.
The local family never recovered.
The Porter information pipeline dates to 1991, when the prosecution team sent letters to the mobsters' lawyers telling them they had a year to decide if they wanted to turn informant.
Mr. Greenbank and others met with Porter at a U.S. Air Force base near the New York prison where he was being held and suggested he could get out early if he cooperated. He agreed.
"In my dealings with him I found him to be pretty upstanding," said Mr. Greenbank. "But you never get 100 percent from somebody. The whole reason we went for Porter's cooperation was to get Mike Genovese. We said we believe you, more than anyone, has to have information to put together a case against Mike. It just wasn't there."
But Porter did give up enough information to earn his release.
In asking for his freedom in 2000, he told Judge Ziegler: "Hopefully if I can spend some time with my children, maybe I can ease some of the pain I've caused."
Porter is survived by his wife and children.
Funeral prayers were set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Bernadette Church, Monroeville, followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 10.

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/east/2016/10/12/Charles-Chucky-Porter-top-mobster-and-informant-has-died/stories/201610120188

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Brooklyn based Russian mob boss turns rat against his mobster pals

No sleep in Brooklyn.

A Brighton Beach mob boss — arrested for extorting a millionaire he was hired to murder — has agreed to squeal on his Russian mobster cronies, it emerged in Manhattan federal court Wednesday.

Boris “Biba” Nayfeld, 69, signed a plea agreement with “cooperation provisions,” said Manhattan federal Judge Katherine Forrest.

Nayfeld has also agreed to testify if needed.

The reputed heroin trafficker admitted in court that he has a reputation for “being associated with organized crime,” and is singing to the feds in hopes of reducing his sentence in the bizarre hit plot.

Nayfeld faces as much as 40 years in prison for first accepting a fee of $100,000 to whack someone and then agreeing to spare the man’s life if he paid him $125,000.

Russian businessman Anatoly Potik allegedly asked Nayfeld to off his son-in-law, shipping magnate Oleg Mitnik, because Mitnik was embroiled in a $20 million divorce with Potik’s daughter.

Nayfeld turned the hit job into a shake-down when he realized he could get a premium to not kill him, the feds have said.

In court Wednesday, Nayfeld said his alleged co-conspirator, Boris Kotlyarsky, told him that Mitnik was “a good guy” after Nayfeld revealed the devious plot to Kotlyarsky.

“Why don’t you relay that information to him (Mitnik) and he will pay you for that,” Nayfeld said Kotlyarsky suggested. Mitnik, who runs runs TRT International, a Newark, did not return a request for comment.

“Yes,” Nayfeld replied through a translator.In discussing Nayfeld’s plea agreement, the judge told him he must “truthfully and completely disclose all information with respect to yourself and others about which the US Attorney’s office is asking of you.”

“And the US Attorney can use that information for any purpose,” the judge said.

“Yes,” Nayfeld replied.

“And you are agreeing to testify if asked to testify?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

http://nypost.com/2016/10/13/mob-boss-who-spared-millionaires-life-will-squeal-on-mobster-cronies/

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mafia used South Jersey as illegal dumping ground

10052016_Jersey_Recycling_debris_full_NJDEP
Not for nothing was Tony Soprano a “solid waste management consultant.”

The mob, especially the mob in New Jersey, has always had a hand in the trash disposal/landfill business. But a recent examination by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation (SCI) has uncovered a new twist in the old game.

The mob has gone “green” – as in recycling.

At the forefront of the latest foray, state investigators say, is a Florida-based businessman with ties to Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino and to members of the Lucchese and Bonanno crime families in New York.

Brad Sirkin, 54, who was recently indicted with Merlino in New York and with six other business associates in Tampa, headed Jersey Recycling Services, a company that leased a 104-acre dumping site in nearby Palmyra, and used what was supposed to be a recycling and mulching operation as a cover for a landfill that illegally took in construction debris, potentially hazardous waste materials and dangerous pollutants.

Federal authorities in Florida and New York have identified Sirkin as one of the movers and shakers behind a $157 million medical insurance fraud scam that is the focus of two pending indictments.

Investigators in New Jersey say that at the same time he was wheeling and dealing in Florida, Sirkin made periodic trips to Palmyra to oversee a dumping operation that could leave the taxpayers of the small, Burlington County community with a multi-million dollar cleanup bill.

“In one form or another, profiting from society’s refuse has always been part of the mob’s twisted business model,” Lee Seglem, the acting director of the SCI, said at a hearing in May that focused on organized crime’s incursion into the recycling business and pointed to Sirkin’s Jersey Recycling as one example.

This photo taken by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Resources in November 2013 purportedly shows runoff from the Jersey Recycling Services landfill reaching Pennsauken Creek.

Sirkin operated “under the cover of legitimacy,” said Andrew Cliver, the SCI’s lead attorney, in a recent interview in his Trenton office. The laws and regulations covering recycling operations do not require the stringent license procedures and background checks that now apply to landfill operators in New Jersey, he explained.

Because of his suspected mob ties and because of a prior racketeering conviction, Sirkin would not have qualified for a landfill owner/operator license. But he was able to obtain permits to run a recycling operation.

Jersey Recycling was licensed to process 20,000 cubic yards of landscape waste – primarily leaves, branches and grass clippings. The business was to turn that waste into mulch that would then be sold to companies or individual homeowners.

Instead, SCI investigators determined that during an 18-month period beginning in 2012 Sirkin’s Jersey Recycling, which operated on a site just off Route 73 and within shouting distance of the Delaware River, took in 380,000 cubic yards of waste material from construction sites and other locations. The material included concrete, brick, contaminated soils, asphalt and rebar.

Whether any of those contaminants became part of the mulch that may now be covering suburban gardens or flower beds is one of many questions SCI investigators said they could not answer. Nor could they say whether any contaminants had leeched into the nearby Pennsauken Creek, the Delaware River or the 250-acre Palmyra Cove Nature Park that is adjacent to the dumping site.

The 104-acre Palmyra property owned by Fillit Inc. is shown, at top, in October 2011, six months before it was taken over by Jersey Recycling Services, and at bottom, earlier this year, after its principal, Brad Sirken, abandoned the landfill in October 2013 and hightailed it back to Florida. The site is a third of a mile from Palmyra Cove Nature Park.

HANGING WITH 'SKINNY' JOEY

Sirkin was subpoenaed to testify before the SCI at a hearing in May, but his lawyer told the agency that if he were to take the stand, he would exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and decline to answer any questions. As a result, he was not called as a witness.

Another reputed mob associate, Frank Gillette, did appear at the SCI hearing, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment right in response to every question posed by Cliver, the SCI attorney. Gillette was identified as a “dirt broker,” someone who negotiates disposal deals.

Sirkin and Gillette were identified by the SCI as two point men for the mob in the recycling business. Both, according to testimony at the hearing, had ties to an unidentified Bonanno crime family capo from New York who authorities believe had a hidden ownership interest in Jersey Recycling.

Among other things, the SCI tracked a $50,000 check from the mob capo to Jersey Recycling that was carried on the company books as a “shareholder loan.” There was no indication that Jersey Recycling had ever repaid that loan, Cliver said.

Sirkin’s suspect mob ties – he is related through marriage to a member of the Lucchese crime family, authorities say – also figure in the cases pending against him in New York and Florida.
“He was a friendly enough guy and he said all the right things. He told us he wanted to clean up the site ... [and] was interested in redeveloping it. But it was all pie in the sky.” – Palmyra Borough Administrator and former mayor John Gural, on Sirkin

Originally from Staten Island, authorities said Sirkin met Philadelphia mob boss Joey Merlino while both were residents of a halfway house in Florida in 2011. Both were finishing their time for racketeering convictions.

After their release from the halfway house, they began to socialize and eventually, authorities claim, they did business together.

“He used to drive Joey all over town,” one law enforcement source said of Sirkin, who like Merlino, settled in the Boca Raton area. When Merlino was cited for violating the terms of his supervised release in 2014, one of the convicted felons he was associating with was Sirkin.

Among other things, sources said they frequented cigar bars in the Boca Raton area. Sirkin’s son, authorities say, operates a cigar bar there.

“He’s a guy who’s always been just a blip on the radar,” one law enforcement source said of Sirkin. “He has associations and business ties, but he’s not a wiseguy.”

Sirkin has been described as outgoing and gregarious and, at least at first blush, presents himself as a legitimate businessman.

“He was a friendly enough guy and he said all the right things,” said Palmyra Borough Administrator and former mayor John Gural. “He told us he wanted to clean up the site. He also said he was interested in redeveloping it. But it was all pie in the sky.”

Gural said the 104-acre site is owned by Fillit Inc., a family-run company that leased the property to Sirkin. Sirkin bulldozed and cleaned up the area when he began the recycling operation, but made no attempt to obtain the necessary permits to handle the kind of debris that hundreds of trucks – which sometimes were lined up along Route 73 in the early morning hours – brought to the property.

When the SCI began an investigation – sparked in part by information that turned up when agents started to look at Gillette’s operation in North Jersey – Sirkin said he would rectify any problems, Gural said. But when the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection filed notice that he was in violation, Sirkin ceased operating and hightailed it back to Florida.

Gural said he realized something was wrong when SCI investigators showed up at his office and began raising questions about Jersey Recycling and Sirkin. Among other things, they showed Gural a series of mug shots of individuals that he said could have been extras in "The Sopranos," the popular HBO series about the New Jersey mob.

“After that Sirkin bolts and the operation (at the landfill) stops,” Gural said. “Nothing’s been going on out there since. It’s a haven for wild turkeys and white-tailed deer.”

The DEP is expected to cite the operation and impose fines for violations that occurred while Jersey Recycling was in business. But that may be the least of Sirkin’s problems.

A dirt road off Route 73 in Palmyra leads to the dumping site leased by Jersey Recycling Services. The business, licensed as a recycling and mulching operation, was actually a cover for a landfill that illegally took in construction debris, authorities said.

ALREADY IN TROUBLE

Bradley Sirkin is under indictment in New York with Merlino and 44 other reputed mob members and associates for racketeering conspiracy in a case handed up in federal court in Manhattan. In that case, authorities allege he, Merlino and another businessman, Wayne Kreisberg, were involved in medical insurance fraud. The scheme involved high-priced compound creams to treat joint and muscle pain.

That indictment is vague on particulars. But another indictment, handed up in federal court in Tampa at the same time, provides chapter and verse in a scam that authorities say bilked medical insurance companies out of $157 million through fraudulent claims for reimbursements.

Sirkin, Kreisberg, a pharmacist and a doctor are among the eight defendants named in that case. Authorities allege doctors were bribed to write phony prescriptions for compound creams for patients who were part of the scam.
The borough has sued Fillit, the company that owns the property, demanding that the landfill be cleaned of all contaminants. The civil suit could result in Palmyra taking ownership of the land.

Sirkin was identified as the manager of Premier Bio-tech, one of nearly a dozen companies cited in the indictment as participants in the fraud. Kreisberg was identified as the president of WMK Marketing and Bio-Tech Advisory, two other companies tied to the scheme which included control of a pharmaceutical operation that manufactured the creams and billed the insurance companies.

Money-laundering is also charged in that case. The Sirkin and Keisberg companies were based in the Boca Raton area. It is unclear if the same companies and the same scams are part of the racketeering charge in New York.

Sources have said Florida investigators had targeted Merlino in their probe but that New York “was the 500-pound gorilla” and insisted Merlino be part of its indictment. Under that scenario, Sirkin and Kreisberg had to be added to the New York case in order to charge Merlino with medical fraud.

He also faces gambling charges.

Sirkin, Keisberg and the other defendants in both pending cases have pleaded not guilty. Those cases are not expected to go to trial until sometime next year.

The SCI, meanwhile, is expected to issue a detailed report by the end of this year on the mob’s incursion into the recycling business. At a state Senate hearing in August, the SCI recommended more stringent regulations for recycling operations in the Garden State.

But in Palmyra the damage has already been done.

The borough has filed a civil suit against Fillit, the company that owns the property, demanding that the landfill be cleaned of all contaminants. Such a cleanup, an SCI investigator testified, could cost “several million dollars.” The civil suit could result in Palmyra taking ownership of the land.

Gural said the borough has long eyed the Fillit property and an adjacent site that was once a drive-in movie and that now is the location for a weekly flea market as a prime redevelopment area. Its proximity to the nature park and the Delaware River would be a developer’s dream.

“The property’s worth about $5.1 million,” he said, “but the cleanup could cost $10 million.”

The situation in Palmyra underscores the need for better recycling regulations, say SCI officials.

The mob, it would seem, is into mulch.

And for now, Palmyra is left holding the bag. 
 
http://www.phillyvoice.com/investigators-merlino-associates-mulch-operation-leaves-palmyra-10m-cleanup/