Feds Take Down ‘Papa Smurf’ In Mob Sweep

The FBI cracked down on Mafia control of the trash-carting industry. A 5 am mob sweep Wednesday resulted in the arrest of over 30 suspects in a four year federal solid waste industry investigation. The pre-dawn apprehensions acquired members of the Gambino, Lucchese, and Genovese crime families including ringleader 77-year-old Carmine “Papa Smurf” Franco and Joseph Sarcinella. They have been implicated in federal racketeering.

The initial probe focused on carting companies in the city, Westchester County, Rockland County, Long Island, and New Jersey, according to the New York Daily News. Federal authorities cite allegations which include defrauding customers, steeling property from competitors, operating in the carting industry while barred and unlicensed, enforcing protection payments, and/or influencing operations of legitimate business in the industry with threats of economic and violent harm.

The lead defendant, “Papa Smurf,” is a Genovese family associate. He’s spent more than three decades in the big business of garbage. Franco is accused of continuing to work in waste management despite two prior convictions. Previously, he ran the beleaguered Ramapo town landfill and was banned from the trash business in New Jersey, and lost his license in New York City, in the late 1990s after pleading guilty to illegally transferring garbage from Bergen County out of state. Franco 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.

The defendants face prison terms ranging from five to 30 years in this case. Multiple defendants were indicted on various charges of illegal activities in the waste-hauling industry including extortion, mail and wire-fraud conspiracy, and interstate transportation of stolen property. Franco was ordered to post $1 million bond, while several other suspects were required to post lesser amounts, or $75,000 and $100,000 respectively, reports USA Today.

Racketeering activity under federal law can include a number of criminal offenses. Bribery, counterfeiting, felony theft from interstate shipment, embezzlement, mail fraud, wire fraud financial institution fraud, citizenship or naturalization fraud, obstruction, witness tampering, retaliation against witness, money laundering, murder for hire, interstate transportation of stolen goods, and the knowledgeable sale of stolen goods are a few examples of racketeering.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO, is a US federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually do it.