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Cops nab Howard Beach man in trash scheme bust

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Three men from Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Bayside were arrested and indicted last week for allegedly working for an unlicensed and unregulated trash company in the Rockaways that earned more than $2.3 million in illegal profits, the Queens district attorney said.

Todd Labarca, 32, of 149-09 98th St. in Howard Beach, Genaro Bruno, 30, of 150-15 Tahoe St. in Ozone Park and Lawrence Higgens, 44, of 215-06 29th Ave. in Bayside, were all charged in the 58-count indictment, DA Richard Brown said.

The principal organizers of the scheme, Anthony "Tony" Piccolo of Massapequa, L.I., and his daughter Toni-Lynn Piccolo of Islip, L.I. were charged along with 13 alleged associates with enterprise corruption, coercion, commercial bribing and conspiracy among others, according to the DA.

Brown, speaking at a news conference, said the principal defendants face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

"It is further charged that he directed his subordinates, including his daughter, to collect illicitly proceeds of extortion, coercion, restraint of trade and grand larceny schemes, orchestrated the commercial bribery of his customers' employees and secreted monetary proceeds made through his unlicensed carting company into various bank accounts," Brown said.

The DA said the scheme operated out of a truck yard at 350 Beach 80th St. in Rockaway and a billing office in Deer Park in Suffolk County. Brown said Labarca and Bruno are alleged to have been enforcers for the criminal enterprise while Higgens, a truck driver, was alleged to have carted waste for the company.

Anthony Piccolo had been prohibited from doing business in New York City because of his past membership in a Brooklyn-based mob-linked trade waste cartel, the DA said.

The indictment spells out how the defendants threatened, coerced and extorted licensed carters for the rights to provide collection services to certain customers, the DA said. Brown said the defendants bribed employees at collection sites, rigged a Kings County bid for a trash collection contract and secretly acquired two city-registered trade waste companies' licenses and unlawfully used them to make profits.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said police joined forces with the district attorney's office and the Business Integrity Commission, the body that regulates trash collectors, helped to bust the defendants.

"The individuals who ran this illegal waste-collection scheme intimidated, bribed and extorted business from honest members of the city's carting industry," he said. "But thanks to the expert work of our detectives and the multi-agency collaboration during this 12-month investigation, we have brought these criminals to justice."

Brown said the sting operation called "Operation Hidden Interest" began in March 2002 and was organized by the Police Department's Organized Crime Investigation Unit.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 156

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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