January 25, 2000
ORGANIZED CRIME FIGURE CARMINE AGNELLO AND THREE ASSOCIATES INDICTED FOR RACKETEERING IN LUCRATIVE SCRAP METAL INDUSTRY AND FOR FIREBOMBING COMPETING SCRAPYARD OPENED BY UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICERS; FACE UP TO 25 YEARS IN PRISON; $8.850 MILLION SOUGHT TO BE ATTACHED IN CIVIL FORFEITURE PROCEEDINGS; 48 OTHERS CHARGED IN AUTO CRIME AND INSURANCE FRAUD STING OPERATION.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir announced today the arrest and indictment of Carmine Agnello, a member of the Gambino Organized Crime family, three of his associates and a company owned by them on charges of operating a racketeering enterprise that dominated the lucrative scrap metal industry in Willets Point, Queens by extortion, arson and threats directed at competitors, including a rival scrapyard operated by undercover police officers assigned to the NYPD's Auto Crime Division. Forty-eight other individuals have also been charged with various auto-related crimes such as insurance fraud, criminal possession of stolen property and illegal possession of vehicle identification numbers allegedly committed during the course of the twelve-month investigation.
District Attorney Brown said "This indictment and these arrests represent yet another nail in the coffin of the auto theft and stolen parts industry in New York City -- an industry that has reaped huge profits for organized crime. Although auto crime has declined dramatically over the last several years as a result of the efforts of police and prosecutors (from 50,239 autos stolen in Queens County in 1990 to 14,109 stolen in 1999, for example,), we believe that with today's arrests and prosecutions we can drive the auto theft rate down even further".
Police Commissioner Safir said, "Thanks to the hard work of NYPD investigators and the assistance of the Queens District Attorney a devastating blow has been laid upon organized crime in the New York area through one of its most critical sources of revenue -- the auto crime industry. NYPD undercover officers dedicated literally thousands of hours to this investigation and placed themselves at great personal risk and as a result one of the most elusive figures in organized crime -- Carmine Agnello -- and several of his key associates have been brought to justice. Mr. Agnello has an extensive arrest record which includes charges of assaulting police officers and yet he has never served any jail time. Thanks to these investigators, he now faces 25 years in prison."
The officials said, "Last year, with the help of a grant from the New York State Insurance Fraud and Theft Prevention Board, the Auto Crime Division of the NYPD's Organized Crime Control Bureau and the Queens District Attorney's office's Rackets and Organized Crime Bureau began an undercover investigation into insurance fraud and illegal vehicle dismantling, among other auto-related crimes, that it was believed were being committed in the Willets Point area of Queens. Willets Point is a one square mile area around Shea Stadium which is home to over 150 auto salvage yards, auto body shops, auto glass shops and scrap metal processors.
"In furtherance of the investigation", District Attorney Brown and Police Commissioner Safir continued, "undercover police officers assigned to the NYPD's Auto Crimes Division opened a business called Stadium Scrap located at 126-49 35th Avenue in Willets Point. The officers set up an office in a trailer on the premises in which they installed various video and audio recording devices including two video cameras inside of the trailer and one outside of the trailer overlooking the salvage yard. A pan and tilt microwave camera was positioned on a pole approximately one hundred yards from the entrance to the yard which viewed the front of the yard and most of the street, Additionally, a consensual recording device was installed on the yard telephone and a consensual listening device was installed in the trailer. The officers rented the appropriate heavy equipment and held themselves out as a legitimate scrapyard specializing in the crushing of salvaged vehicles and the reselling of the crushed vehicles to scrap metal processors for shredding.
"In April, 1999", District Attorney Brown and Police Commissioner Safir said, "Stadium began acquiring salvage vehicles from salvage yards in the neighborhood, crushing the autos and reselling them to a nearby legitimate scrap metal processor. Barely one month after Stadium opened for business, Carmine Agnello, who owns a majority interest in New York Shredding Corp. a lucrative scrap metal processing company located at 1340 East Bay Avenue in the Bronx, as well as New York Scrap, Inc. which handles 80% of the scrapyard crushing business in Willets Point, and which operates Scrap Metal Processors ("crushers") at 127-08 Willets Point Blvd. and 155-17 Liberty Avenue in Queens County, accompanied by the defendant Joseph "Jumbo" Burger, approached the undercover officers and solicited their business, telling them that they had been in the "auto industry" for a long time and that they had recently purchased a scrapyard in Willets Point that specialized in crushing vehicles and that they did not want any competition. The defendant Agnello is also alleged to have told the officers that they should sell him Stadium's crushed vehicles for shredding or else he would run Stadium out of business."
According to the indictment, Agnello, together with defendants Steven Scala (a co-owner of New York Shredding), Mark Lomonaco (vice president of the company) and Burger, thereupon engaged in a pattern of criminal activity designed to control Stadium Scrap or drive them out of business. It is alleged, for example, that
• On June 2nd Mark Lomonaco, at the direction of Agnello, went to Stadium Scrap to inspect the location in anticipation of a fire being set thereat;
• On the night of June 10th, at the direction of Agnello, the lock on Stadium's gate was cut; gasoline in a plastic container and auto flares were recovered at the scene;
• On June 15th Agnello directed the fire bombing of Stadium's office trailer and a flatbed truck;
• At 2 a.m. on June 17th, at Agnello's express direction, Stadium's gate lock was cut, its yard was entered, glass bottles filled with gasoline were thrown and a flatbed truck and the gasoline was ignited with road flares;
• On June 29th at 1 a.m., at Agnello's express direction, Stadium's gate lock was again cut, gasoline was thrown on the steps of the trailer office and on the trailer itself and the gasoline was ignited; and
• On June 30th Agnello told Scala to have Burger inspect the damage caused by the fire on the night before which Burger shortly thereafter was observed doing.
"The purpose of this thuggery and violence", District Attorney Brown and Police Commissioner Safir said, "was to control both the price paid to salvage yards for vehicles and the price paid by New York Shredding for the crushed scrap so that the defendants' profits would be inflated."
The defendants Carmine Agnello, 40, of 6 Birch Court, Old Westbury, Mark Lomonaco, 35, of 78-02 95th Avenue, Woodhaven, Steven Scala, 37, of 77-02 79th Place, Maspeth and Joseph Burger, 43, of 94-10 134th Avenue Woodhaven, are all charged with Enterprise Corruption under New York State's Organized Crime Control Act. In addition, the defendants are charged with various counts of Restraint of Trade, Coercion in the first degree, Conspiracy in the fourth degree, Grand Larceny in the second degree, arson in the third degree and attempted arson in the third degree. They face up to 25 years in prison upon conviction. The other defendants, charged separately in felony complaints with various auto related crimes including insurance fraud, criminal possession of stolen property, illegal possession of vehicle identification numbers and other crimes, face up to 4 years in prison.
District Attorney Brown said that in addition to criminal charges his office's Civil Enforcement Bureau has begun civil forfeiture proceedings in the Supreme Court, Queens County, seeking an Order of Attachment seizing the defendants' assets, including the New York Shredding Corporation which allegedly grosses $30 million annually, in the amount of $8,850,730. In addition, 12 search warrants were executed in Queens and the Bronx at commercial and residential locations including New York Shredding.
The investigation was carried out by the New York City Police Department's Auto Crime Division, under the command of Inspector James C. Dean and the overall supervision of Deputy Commissioner for Organized Crime Martin B. O'Boyle. Among those assigned to the investigation were Detective Vincent LaPenta, Sgt. Wayne Pollaci, Lt. Michael Byrne and other members of the Police Department's Auto Crimes Division and members of the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the New York City Police Department under the supervision of Captain Michael O'Hara.
The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Gerard A. Brave and Assistant District Attorney Peri A. Kadanoff of the District Attorney's Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau, which is under the supervision of Bureau Chief Brian J. Mich and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney Robert D. Alexander and Counsel to the Investigations Division George Freed. The forfeiture proceedings are being handled by Assistant District Attorney Anthony M. Communiello, Chief of District Attorney Brown's Civil Enforcement Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney David S. Zadnoff.
It should be noted that arrests and indictments are merely accusations and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.