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Agnello admits illegal scrap-yard practices

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The son-in-law of convicted Gambino crime boss John Gotti and five of his Queens business partners pleaded guilty last week in federal court to racketeering, extortion, arson, income tax fraud and other charges for illegally dominating the scrap metal businesses in Willets Point, the Queens district attorney said.

Carmine Agnello, who is married to Gotti’s daughter, Victoria, made a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District in Brooklyn and was scheduled to be sentenced in November to nine years in prison, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Monday.

Agnello, 40, of Old Westbury, L.I., will forfeit $10 million to the U.S. government and pay $950,000 in restitution to his crime victims. In addition, he will pay $150,000 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service and be barred for life from the scrap metal industry, Brown said.

The other defendants, Michael Agnello, 42, of Howard Beach; Joseph Burger, 43, of Ozone Park; Mark Lomonaco, 37, of Ozone Park; Steven Scala, 38, of Glendale and John Sowulski, 41, of Woodhaven were expected to receive sentences ranging from 15 to 87 months in prison and fines of about $250,000 each, the DA said.

“These guilty pleas represent a resounding victory for law enforcement in this case,” said U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad. “Federal and state law enforcement agencies, working cooperatively, have dealt a powerful blow to the Mafia’s infiltration of the local scrap metal industry.”

The Queens DA’s office began the investigation by wiretapping Carmine Agnello’s cell phone while the Police Department’s Auto Crime Division set up a business called “Stadium Scrap” as a sting operation in the Willets Point section of Flushing.

Both the wire tap and the sting operation uncovered evidence that Agnello and his co-defendants were operating a racketeering enterprise that forced other scrap-metal companies in Willets Point out of business, the DA said.

Agnello and his associates engaged in arson, extortion and threatening their competitors, including the fake scrap metal shop run by the police, Brown and Vinegrad said.

“The use of violence and intimidation by gangsters to gain competitive advantage in business will not be tolerated,” Vinegrad said. “With this prosecution, Carmine Agnello has been relegated to the scrap heap of organized crime.”

Gotti, who is in the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., is dying of head, neck and throat cancer. He is serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering after his 1992 conviction.

Stadium Scrap opened in April 1999 and less than one month later, Agnello and co-defendant Burger approached one of the undercover officers. They threatened him with either doing business with Agnello and bringing them their crushed vehicles or facing the consequences of being shut down, the DA said.

When the undercover officers running Stadium Scrap did not back down, Agnello hired an arsonist to burn down the shop, Brown said. The arsonist was arrested before he was able to start the fire. He cooperated with authorities and recorded Agnello ordering that Stadium Scrap be burned down, according to the district attorney.

After two controlled fires, Stadium Scrap agreed to do business with Agnello, who also owned a number of glass-related businesses with co-defendant Scala, the DA said.

This operation sold glass from illicitly obtained vehicles, Brown said. The glass was crushed, obliterating the Vehicle Identification Numbers and destroying evidence.

As a result of this operation, Agnello and his associates were able to open a metal-shredding business, New York Shredding Corporation, which shred the remains of the vehicles and sold the metal to be recycled, Brown said.

Agnello and his co-defendants were arrested and indicted in January 2000. The case, initiated by the Queens DA’s office, later merged with a federal investigation.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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