Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Battle against organized crime "far from over"

A parade of lawyers, lobbyists and longshoremen representing North Jersey's bustling seaport industry came to Trenton last fall with a simple message: Free the waterfront!
They had come before a Senate committee looking to kill a proposed measure that would help law enforcement crack down on the racketeers and other criminals that historically ruled the wharves.
"The waterfront now, and the businesses operating on the waterfront now, are no different than any other business," said the committee chairman, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, arguing that the days of "On the Waterfront"-style corruption were long gone from the docks.
Only four months later, 91 people, including scores from North Jersey and New York, were arrested on charges ranging from labor racketeering to murder in what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said was the largest one-day crackdown on organized crime in FBI history. Among those charged was a labor-union official who testified before Lesniak's committee.
Years of police work and prosecutions have indeed diminished the role of organized crime in industries like trash hauling and shipping, law-enforcement officials say.
But they caution that a string of recent actions like the waterfront sting and arrests of Genovese crime family members allegedly running New England waste-hauling rackets show the mob is still a presence and capable of constantly reinventing itself as opportunities arise.
Holder, announcing the waterfront operation earlier this year, said it was a dangerous mistake to assume that the mob was a thing of the past.
"Mafia operations … negatively impact our economy — not only through a wide array of fraud schemes but also through the illegal imposition of mob 'taxes' at our ports, in our construction industries, and on our small businesses," Holder said. "The reality is that our battle against organized-crime enterprises is far from over."

Racketeers on rise

Lesniak, who did not respond to a request to comment for this story, has sponsored a number of laws that reflect his views on the diminished influence of organized crime.
In addition to the law enacted in May that limits state oversight of the waste business, he introduced bills last year that would kill the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, the bi-state agency that licenses and polices the shipping companies and stevedores. He also sought to kill an initiative that would require suspect shipping firms to hire independent inspectors general, such as those that successfully oversaw the reclamation of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
The 50-year-old Waterfront Commission, Lesniak argued, was a job-killing bureaucracy that was no longer needed in an age when many publicly traded and regulated companies dominate the ports.
But law enforcers from Holder on down have issued repeated warnings in recent years about the persistence of organized crime at wharf-side and elsewhere.
Newly appointed officials at the Waterfront Commission, which itself had been the target of a 2009 New York inspector general report singling out widespread cronyism and other abuses, said the need to fight to pervasive corruption in the ports has never been greater.
"The vitality of the port is directly affected by organized crime," said Executive Director Walter Arsenault, pointing out that 19 waterfront figures had been implicated in racketeering and mob-related probes in 2009 and 2010 alone.
In testimony before Congress in October 2007 regarding interstate waste transport, New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection Assistant Commissioner Wolfgang Skacel said the state's tough licensing and disclosure law for trash haulers was "necessary to protect the public safety by keeping out dangerous and irresponsible elements."
State data show that, while big public companies control large swaths of the industry, about 50 percent of the waste trade is still plied by small, independent firms. The number of small companies involved in the business, especially the demolition trade, has mushroomed, officials say. There are now more licensed haulers in New Jersey than ever before, some 600, according to the state.
State police investigators told the SCI in 2004 that organized-crime figures were actively expanding in demolition and recycling enterprises, where they said the potential to make huge profits through illegal dumping is huge. The state in recent years has also tracked a rise in unregistered haulers and unlicensed companies engaged in the waste trade, according to the state DEP.
Both the EnCap and Overpeck Park projects have had issues with problematic waste haulers.
Engineers working for Bergen County said they were forced to dismiss a number of haulers from the Overpeck site for violating rules restricting the type of materials allowed there. Some of those haulers had mob ties, according to government records.
Officials with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission said they were forced to reject a potential multimillion deal with a Trevose, Pa., firm that wanted to import materials from a contaminated site in Brooklyn. The company, a division of Pure Earth, had a $14 million contract to remove waste from the site of the Barclay's sports arena, future home of the New York Nets.
As Pure Earth was preparing to sign the Meadowlands deal, the company was denied a license renewal by the New York City Business Integrity Commission in part for concealing ties with known racketeers.

'Legitimate business'

At last year's waterfront hearing, Lesniak maintained the era of the rackets was over and he compared shipping firms to publicly traded drug companies.
"They're no different than a pharmaceutical company, they're no different than a construction company. They're a legitimate business that is carrying a burden of the '50s with them that no longer exists."
Among the New Jersey residents arrested after the Jan. 11 mob sweep was a union official who had testified before Lesniak's committee about how much the waterfront had cleaned up its act.
"We have changed, society has changed, and the port has changed," said Thomas Leonardis, president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1235, who was charged with extorting fellow union members. "The waterfront commission had outlived its usefulness … and was still living in 1953."
Another individual netted in the FBI roundup was Union resident Albert Cernadas Sr., a former ILA executive who was accused of using violence to shake down dockworkers for "Christmas tribute" kickbacks to the mob. Federal authorities identified him as an associate of the Genovese crime family, an arm of the mob active in North Jersey.
State records show Cernadas, who like Leonardis has pleaded not guilty, made thousands of dollars in contributions to New Jersey politicians in recent years, including a $500 contribution last fall to Lesniak.



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