CT trash hauler sentenced to 7 years in prison for price fixing

September 3, 2008 12:12:12 PM PDT
A Connecticut trash hauler was sentenced to more than seven years in prison Wednesday for a price-fixing conspiracy that authorities say was supported by mob muscle, violence and extortion. U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns imposed an 87-month prison term on James Galante, 55, of New Fairfield. He pleaded guilty in June to racketeering conspiracy and fraud charges.

Authorities said Galante paid a quarterly mob tax to the Genovese crime family in exchange for muscle to stifle trash hauling competition and drive up rates for customers. Galante's businesses handled nearly 80 percent of the refuse in southwestern Connecticut.

Galante admitted to trying to rig a bid for a contract to operate a transfer station, tampering with a witness, having no-show employees, accepting payroll kickbacks from employees, skimming cash from his businesses and violating the salary cap on his minor league hockey team, the Trashers in Danbury.

In his plea bargain, he agreed to surrender dozens of businesses worth more than $100 million, six racing cars, properties in Southbury and $448,000 in cash seized by investigators. He also agreed to pay $1.6 million in income taxes and withdraw from the trash industry, and he was fined $100,000.

Prosecutors said the anticompetitive scheme went on for nearly two decades.

"Connecticut's carting industry was broken," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gustafson. "James Galante was principally responsible for breaking it."

Galante did not comment in the courtroom Wednesday. He was ordered to report to prison on Oct. 15.

"No mercy," his lawyer, Hugh Keefe, said after the hearing. Keefe had argued for less prison time, noting that Galante and his wife had donated more than $3 million and many hours of their time to a variety of charities, civic groups and other causes.

Keefe read from a 2004 letter in which U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman praised Galante for his contributions to military families.

The judge said she wasn't diminishing the Galantes' charitable acts, but added that "it was the people who were the victims of his conspiracy who in large measure funded those contributions."

Burns said she based her sentence on a need for deterrence, saying Galante had a previous tax fraud conviction, and the effect on trash hauling companies' customers.

"They lost a lot of money over the years," the judge said.

Prosecutors said the sentence should send a clear message to the garbage hauling industry that such anticompetitive schemes will not be tolerated.

"The real winners today, we hope, are the consumers," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Miller said.

Keefe said authorities have raised trash rates six times since taking over Galante's businesses. Prosecutors blamed the rate hikes on high gas prices.

Keefe said Galante was operating in a "tough and rough" industry, but said investigators found little evidence of violence despite a lengthy investigation. He said the government cited an incident involving the burning of a competitor's truck that occurred nearly two decades ago.

"Seldom has so much effort been expended with so little reward," Keefe said.

Prosecutors said on several occasions that investigators had to intervene to stop physical violence.

Galante was one of 33 people charged in the 2006 case. All but one have since pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Galante paid a quarterly $30,000 mob tax to alleged Genovese crime family boss Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello in exchange for mob muscle to stifle competition.

Ianniello pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion and was sentenced to two years in prison.

The witness tampering Galante admitted to involved directions to lie to the grand jury about providing cash on behalf of Galante and others to Ianniello's alleged bag man. v Galante's forfeited companies are being sold.


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