Dozens arrested in New York/New Jersey extortion probe

NEW YORK Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:07pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dozens of organized crime figures from the New York area were arrested Wednesday following an investigation of extortion of local garbage haulers, authorities said.

Many of those arrested are suspected members or associates of the Gambino, Genovese and Luchese organized crime families, three of the five largest Mafia factions in the New York area, according to a federal indictment.

Thirty suspects in New York and New Jersey were taken into custody, the FBI said. Twelve of the suspects, including Carmine "Papa Smurf" Franco, who authorities say is a reputed Genovese family associate, are charged with racketeering and conspiracy charges.

Franco is accused of extortion, loan sharking and other crimes.

Many of those charged Wednesday are accused of acting as a silent partner in a licensed garbage hauling business after either being banned from the industry following prior convictions or being unlikely to be approved for waste management licenses due to alleged ties to organized crime.

Franco and two of his sons were banned in 1998 by state regulators from operating waste management companies in New Jersey following fraud and corruption convictions.

Other suspects are charged with stealing garbage trucks or stealing loads of cardboard and driving them across state lines where they were sold for profit.

Many of the suspects face charges of extorting money from legitimate garbage haulers to "back," or protect them, from other reputed mobsters, according to the indictment.

"In addition to the violence that often accompanies their schemes, the economic impact amounts to a mob tax on goods and services," said George C. Venizelos, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York field office.

The waste management business has been infiltrated by organized crime in real life and in Hollywood depictions of the Mafia

In HBO's popular television drama "The Sopranos," which ran from 1999 to 2007, actor James Gandolfini played Tony Soprano, a vicious New Jersey mobster who said he was a waste management executive.

(Editing by Dan Grebler, Bernadette Baum, John Wallace and Kenneth Barry)

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