businessman who in recent years has become a major player in the
garbage and recycling industries has been indicted by federal prosecutors on mob-related racketeering, extortion and tax conspiracy charges.
Thomas Milo, 58, of Pelham, N.Y., was among seven people named this week in a 61-count indictment by a federal grand jury in White Plains, N.Y. It charges that a
-controlled cartel used arson, bribery and violence to dominate the garbage-hauling industry in the suburbs north of
The individuals and 14 companies are accused of committing dozens of crimes in southwestern Connecticut, in five New York counties and in two
towns. Milo, the prosecutors allege, is affiliated with the Genovese crime family.
Milo's New York-based operations alone have combined annual gross revenues of about $70 million, the prosecutors estimate. He has other companies in Connecticut,
. None of his Connecticut-based businesses is named in the indictment.
If convicted, Milo could face a prison term of at least 60 years and forfeiture of his assets, the indictment says.
The case involving Milo could have major ramifications for many Connecticut towns and businesses that have contracts or partnerships with his firms, or who have been in competition or in legal conflicts with him.
By keeping out competitors, the prosecutors say, the cartel has been able to grossly inflate the price for garbage collection for tens of thousands of businesses and homeowners.
Despite an official report as early as 10 years ago that Milo was linked to organized crime, the state Department of Environmental Protection in recent years has given permits to several operations in which he is a partner.
Milo's interests in Connecticut include part ownership of a
recycling company, Automated Waste Disposal Inc., that serves 10 Housatonic Valley towns. Suburban Carting of Mamaroneck, N.Y., one of Milo's companies named in the indictment, owns 40 percent of Automated.
His other interests in the state include a partnership in a Berlin paper processing plant that also accepts Bristol's plastic recyclables; and ownership of a company, Enviro Express, that hauls trash from 14 towns to the Bridgeport trash-to- energy plant, and hauls the ash from the plant to a landfill in Shelton. Those multimillion-dollar contracts are with the incinerator's operator, Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.
Enviro Express also was named in the indictment. Industry observers say Enviro is becoming increasingly more active in the
area and recently was chosen by
to do curbside pickup of recyclables.
Milo also is a partner with Frank Perrotti, another major Connecticut trash hauler. They are involved in a venture seeking a DEP permit to build and operate a large trash- transfer station in
, according to the recovery authority, which is opposing the application. Perrotti also is a partner with Milo in the Berlin paper operation, Automated Salvage Transport Inc.
New York City's mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, is trying to prevent organized crime figures from ever getting garbage-hauling licenses. The New York indictment raises the question, industry observers say, of whether Milo's Connecticut interests should be investigated by authorities here.
Environmental Protection Commissioner Sidney J. Holbrook could not be reached Thursday. But Richard Barlow, chief of the DEP's waste management bureau, said, ``We don't control the haulers. We don't regulate them.''
Milo could not be reached for comment. Greg Young, counsel for Suburban Carting, had no comment on the indictment. ``It would be inappropriate to do so in the face of pending litigation,'' he said.
In 1988 The Courant reported that the state attorney general's office and two officers at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority knew that a company controlled by Milo and an associate was reputed to have ties to organized crime, and that the authority approved a garbage-hauling contract with Suburban Carting anyway.
In 1993 William R. Darcy, president of the recovery authority, and Robert E. Moore, then a DEP deputy commissioner, said they were concerned about moves into the state by trash haulers and landfill operators who were named as having organized crime ties in a 1986 New York State Assembly committee's report -- prepared by then-Assemblyman Maurice Hinchey.
Darcy and Moore recommended that the state strengthen a law that allows the DEP to investigate the backgrounds of individuals seeking permits for landfills, recycling centers and trash-transfer stations. The current law allows the department to consider only violations of environmental laws when deciding whether someone is fit to get a permit. The proposed change would have allowed the consideration of all criminal convictions.
At the time of the proposal, Milo and a partner in Connecticut, James Galante, were seeking a DEP permit for Automated Waste Disposal Inc. to establish a trash-transfer station in Danbury; the recovery authority had intervened to oppose the application.
But the state never followed through on the recommendation to strengthen the background-check law, and the DEP granted Automated its permit in Danbury.
``It's common knowledge that Tommy Milo is described as a member of organized crime in the Hinchey report on organized crime,'' said Elizabeth H. Karter, president of Resource Recovery Systems Inc., an
-based company that has fought Milo in the courts to protect its interests.
Karter said Milo's company tried to bully her out of business in a Berlin recycling center that was next to the paper-processing center in which Milo was a partner. She said Milo helped direct the operations of Automated Salvage Transport Inc. -- the Berlin processing firm -- and that the company used such tactics as blocking access to her facility ``so our trucks couldn't go in and out'' and ``building a building on our land without permission.'' A 1995 arbitrator's decision in the dispute agreed with those assertions.
Hinchey, now a congressman from an upstate New York district, said state environmental authorities have a responsibility to investigate and police garbage-hauling and recycling firms.
While preparing his legislative report a decade ago, Hinchey said, he was threatened and offered money to back off. ``And that wasn't the worst of it,'' he said. ``The indifference we received from some of the authorities was worse than the threats of physical violence and offers of bribes.''
Milo, according to the Hinchey report, was charged with bribery in 1977 in connection with a
garbage-hauling contract. The report says the New York indictment was thrown out, however, because the quality of a tape of a crucial conversation wasn't sufficient to corroborate a detective's testimony.
In 1987 Milo, three other men and Suburban Carting were indicted by a New Jersey grand jury on charges of conspiring in 1981 and 1982 to conceal from the state board of public utilities their true identities in buying another garbage company. But the charges were dismissed in 1989 because the statute of limitations had run out.
In 1984 and 1986 then-Attorney General Joseph I. Lieberman recommended changing Connecticut law so that garbage haulers and others involved in the waste industry would be required to file disclosure statements on their backgrounds. Lieberman wanted to model Connecticut's policing of the garbage industry on a system that has been in place in New Jersey since 1984.
But Lieberman's recommendations were not adopted by state lawmakers.
The indictment of Milo ``may well prompt a second look at legislation that would compel background checks for contractors doing business with the state,'' said
Moore, who was fired from the DEP last year by the Rowland administration, said that there has long been concern about questionable characters in the garbage industry.
One of the state's most notorious mobsters, William P. Grasso, who was murdered in June 1989, was convicted by federal authorities in 1968 of impeding interstate commerce by trying to monopolize garbage hauling in Bridgeport. After serving a prison sentence, Grasso was hired as a salesman by a garbage hauling firm, Frank Perrotti and Sons of