NEW YORK - A pair of North Jersey men with ties to organized crime are facing prison terms after admitting their roles in racketeering schemes to control the trash-hauling business in and around New York City.
Ramsey resident Carmine Franco, 78, a known associate of the Genovese crime family known as "Papa Smurf" and "Uncle Sonny", pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to transport stolen goods. He could face up to 45 years behind bars when he is sentenced on March 19.
Franco was among the most high-profile names among 32 defendants with connections to Mafia factions charged in connection with the alleged scheme, which was busted in January after a multiyear investigation based largely on the work of an undercover informant.
Indictments said the group, 10 of whom hailed from New Jersey, used threats of violence and economic harm to dictate what stops trash hauling companies could make. They also took payments from businesses in exchange for protection along the hauling routes, even as they subjected them to various extortion, loansharking and theft rackets.
According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Franco had already been banned from the business in 1998, after being implicated in a scheme to defraud New Jersey and Bergen County out of millions by illegally shipping garbage to landfills out of state.
He remained a powerful figure in the industry, however, and continued to rake in profits by overbilling customers at a transfer station in West Nyack, N.Y., which he admitted to as part of his plea on Friday.
Another Genovese associate, 78-year-old Anthony Pucciarello of Bloomfield, made a guilty plea of his own on Friday, admitting his failure to report an extortion scheme being used against a cooperating government witness in order to obtain an ownership share in their business.
He will face up to three years in federal prison when he returns to Manhattan federal court in March.
Franco and Pucciarello are the 15th and 16th members of the ring to plead guilty, according to Bharara.
In addition to his prison term, Franco also agreed to pay $2.5 million to the government.