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32 reputed mobsters indicted in N.Y.

  |   Jan. 16, 2013 at 4:15 PM
NEW YORK, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Thirty-two reputed Mafia members, including a ringleader dubbed "Papa Smurf," were indicted Wednesday in a New York trash-hauling probe, U.S. officials said.

The reputed soldiers and associates of New York's Genovese, Gambino and Luchese crime families -- and a recently retired New York state trooper -- were indicted on extortion, loan sharking, fraud and other charges for their alleged illegal Mafia control of unnamed private trash-hauling companies that did business in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and the lower Hudson Valley, documents unsealed at U.S. District Court in New York indicated.

Their alleged racketeering crimes included requiring monthly "protection payments" from a waste-hauling executive and demanding a 90 percent share of the business, the indictment said. Another alleged infraction involved stealing recyclable cardboard from rival waste-hauling companies, then selling it across state lines for thousands of dollars in profit, the indictment said.

Thirty of the 32 defendants were arrested in early-morning raids Wednesday, authorities said. Two more are to surrender to authorities by Friday.

"Organized crime still wraps its tentacles around industries it has fed off for decades, but law enforcement continues to pry loose its grip," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

"Here, as described in the indictments, organized crime insinuated itself into the waste disposal industry throughout a vast swath of counties in New York and New Jersey, and the tactics they used to exert and maintain their control come right out of the mafia playbook -- extortion, intimidation and threats of violence."

The lead defendant charged is Carmine "Papa Smurf" Franco, a reputed Genovese family associate with more than three decades in the garbage industry who was banned from the business in New Jersey because of prior convictions, the indictment said.

"Nevertheless ... Franco has continued to control and operate waste hauling businesses," it said.

Mario Velez, 44, of Peeskill, N.Y., a recently retired state trooper, is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion. Velez is believed to have committed the acts while he was still a state trooper, WABC-TV, New York, reported.

He also served as the "school resource officer" at a lower Hudson Valley high school, the station said. A school resource officer counsels students, the school website says.

Velez received a special recognition award from the school district in 2007 for his service, the website, reviewed by United Press International, indicated.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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