A reputed Ramsey mobster known as "Papa Smurf" was charged Wednesday in a widespread federal sweep targeting a mob-run conspiracy to control the trash-hauling industry in New York and New Jersey.
Borough resident Carmine Franco, a 77-year-old Genovese Crime Family associate who had two prior convictions in connection with organized crime in the trash removal industry, was allegedly the ring leader of a scheme to control crooked waste management companies, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Franco and a brother formerly owned the Sal Car transfer station in Hillsdale, which they later sold to Waste Management. Also arrested Wednesday was Teaneck resident Jonathan Greene, 47, who faces a charge of interstate transportation of stolen property in the alleged mob conspiracy.
Franco, who also goes by "Uncle Sonny," was one of 32 people in New York and New Jersey charged in an FBI-run takedown that included members of several crime families, US Attorney for the Southern District of NY, Preet Bharara, Assistant Director in Charge of the NY Office of the FBI George Venizelos and Westchester County Police Department Commissioner George Longworth said in a release.
Franco was allegedly at the center of a scheme involving three well-known mob families, the Genovese, Gambino and Lucchese crime families. According to the release, Franco was one of 12 people who controlled crooked waste management companies that were officially owned by people who had no past ties to organized crime, who were known as “controlled members.”
Franco has long been suspected of having mob ties and was banned from the trash business in New Jersey, court papers said. In 1998, he was sentenced to prison and agreed to pay $11.5 million to the state and Bergen County for illegally carting trash out of state.
Due to Franco's previous convictions, he would not have been able to obtain a waste-hauling license in NY and was barred from the industry in New Jersey, the release said.
Franco was forced to sell the transfer station in Hillsdale and had to pay $5 million in fines to the borough for violating local hours of operation rules, using improper truck routes and generating noise complaints from residents, according to Mayor Max Arnowitz.
"There was myriad of things," Arnowitz said.
Franco and the 11 other “enterprise members” controlled the waste disposal businesses by dictating hauling routes, demanding extortion payments for protection and using the company to commit other crimes.
“Enterprise members… [dictated] which trash pick-up stops that a particular hauling company could use and [extorted] payments in exchange for protection by individuals associated with organized crime,” the release said. “By asserting and enforcing purported “property rights” over the trash pick-up routes, the Enterprise members excluded any competitor that might offer lower prices or better service, in effect imposing a criminal tax on businesses and communities.”
The, “tactics [Franco and his accomplices] used to exert and maintain their control come right out of the mafia playbook – extortion, intimidation, and threats of violence,” Bharara said in the release. “And while these accused mobsters may have hidden themselves behind seemingly legitimate owners of waste disposal businesses, law enforcement was able to pierce that veil through its painstaking, multi-year investigation.”
The investigation included a controlled owner who was cooperating with law enforcement, but acting as an affiliate of the crime scheme, the release said. At times, Franco allegedly controlled the Cooperating Witness’s company.
“Organized crime has many victims – in this case small business owners who pay for waste removal, potential competitors, and the communities infected by this corruption and its cost,” Bharara said.
Franco is charged with one count of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, two counts of extortion, three counts of mail and wire fraud conspiracy, and nine counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, the release said. Together, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 195 years in prison.
The charges against the group of 32 alleged criminals are contained in three indictments, United States v. Franco, et al., United States v. Giustra, et al., and United States v. Lopez. An initial hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan.