Islip Town has filed a $4 million federal racketeering suit against more than three dozen people and companies it said had joined together in an “enterprise” to unlawfully dump contaminated debris at Roberto Clemente Park.
The suit, filed April 29 in Eastern District Court in Central Islip, contends 14 people, one church, 13 companies and 10 other unidentified defendants worked together to dump nearly 40,000 tons of contaminated debris on the soccer field and in a recharge basin at the Brentwood park, leaving the town with more than $4 million in cleanup costs.
Six of the people and four of the companies named in the town’s suit were indicted in December 2014 by Suffolk prosecutors over an alleged dumping scheme in and around Islip.
The town’s lawsuit relies chiefly on the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, also known as RICO. The law allows for civil suits, such as this one, against those responsible for ongoing criminal enterprises.
“The purpose of the lawsuit is not only to seek reimbursement for Islip taxpayers for the costs expended by the town to remediate the park, but to use the discovery process to identify the generators of the hazardous materials that was dumped at Clemente Park and at sites all over Nassau and Suffolk counties, many of which have yet to be discovered,” Islip Town spokeswoman Caroline Smith said in a statement.
The defendants include Thomas Datre Jr., his parents Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre, his sister Gia Gatien, Richard Datre Jr. and eight Datre family companies, along with Christopher Grabe and his companies, Islandia Recycling and C.J. Site Development Inc.
Thomas Datre Jr. pleaded guilty in March to four felonies relating to the dumping scheme, while Grabe pleaded guilty to two felonies. The charges that Thomas Datre Sr. faced were dropped.
In its suit, Islip also named Iglesia de Jesucristo Palabra Miel, Pastor Marco Lopez, church secretary Nancy Alvarez and church members William Carillo, Raul Pachecho and Walter Casasola, as well as Ronald Cianciulli and his company, Atlas Home Improvement Corp. of Long Island, also known as Atlas Asphalt.
Former town Parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former executive secretary Brett Robinson, IEV Trucking Corp., COD Services Corp. and 10 unnamed “John Doe” defendants round out the 38 defendants.
David Antwork, a Merrick attorney representing Thomas Datre Jr., and Patrick O’Connell, the Central Islip attorney for Robinson, both said they could not comment on the suit because they had not seen it.
Kevin Kearon of Garden City, who represented Thomas Datre Jr. and his company in the criminal trial, also said he had not seen the suit and could not comment.
Sayville attorney Alia Richards, who represents Grabe, and John Halverson of Patchogue, who represents Montuori, did not return a call seeking comment.
“The Town of Islip’s attorneys have inexplicably filed a frivolous lawsuit against Ronald Cianciulli and Atlas Asphalt,” said John Carman of Garden City, who represents Cianciulli and his company. “It will be a shameful waste of taxpayer money.”
Andrew Campanelli, a Merrick attorney representing Thomas Datre Sr., Clara Datre and their company, Daytree at Cortland Square, said his clients had nothing to do with the dumping at the park.
“The town and the politicians making decisions for the town have elevated stupidity to an art form,” Campanelli said. “The town, knowing that Thomas Datre Sr. was not involved, not only sued Thomas Datre Sr., they sued his daughter who was never there, his nephew, and basically everybody who set foot in the park or didn’t set foot in the park.”
Richard Datre Jr. could not be reached for comment, although Campanelli said there was “a good possibility” he would represent him and Gatien.
In April 2015, Thomas Datre Sr., Clara Datre and Daytree at Cortland Square filed a $39 million federal suit in Eastern District court in Central Islip against Islip Town, several town board members and officials, and members of the town’s Conservative Party, alleging a politically driven scheme to pin the dumping on the Datres partly as punishment for their fundraising on behalf of the town’s Republican Party.
Campanelli, who requested that suit be stayed pending the resolution of the criminal case, said he now planned to ask the court to reactivate it.
The church and its members could not be reached for comment.
A message left with the owner of IEV Trucking was not returned, nor was a message left at a number listed for COD Services Corp.
In the suit, the town said that members of the Brentwood church had approached the town in 2013 for permission to restore the soccer field at the church — but the church soon began working with Thomas Datre Jr. and Grabe to allow unsuitable materials to be dumped at the park, while falsely claiming to the town that church members were the ones working at the park.
The town pointed to a letter, which it said was written by Lopez, stating that the church had been working on the soccer field since April 2013. Instead, the town maintains, the church had stopped working on the field in May 2013.
“The contents of the letter . . . were false and intended to mislead the town into an assumption that improvements at the park were being contributed solely by members of the church congregation, and to conceal the involvement of the Datre, Grabe, and John Doe defendants,” the suit reads.
IEV Trucking and COD Services had “acted as brokers to supply contaminated fill, C & D [construction and demolition] materials and other solid wastes to the enterprise for disposal at Roberto Clemente Park,” arranging for trucks owned by Thomas Datre Jr. and Grabe to pick up loads in Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island to be delivered to the site, according to the suit.
The suit claims the two companies paid “over $600,000” to the Datres and their firms for the loads, most of which went to the park “or at other locations at which the enterprise was conducting racketeering activity.”
Meanwhile, Montuori and Robinson “misused their authority to control access to the park” by allowing first the church, then the Datres and Datre-family companies to dump at the park, then “concealed the involvement of the Datre and Grabe groups” in the delivery of the material, according to the suit.
Cianciulli and his company “assisted the enterprise by contributing equipment and accepting contaminated fill material removed from the recharge area” of the park, the suit said.
That material later was taken to a Deer Park property owned by Atlas, according to the suit, before it was dumped in the wetlands at 175 Brook Ave.
The unnamed defendants include “third-party entities” that “generated or arranged the disposal of” material dumped at the park, the suit read.
In addition to violations under RICO, the town is claiming damages under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, also known as Superfund, because the material contained “hazardous substances,” including lead and semivolatile organic compounds. Other claims include public nuisance, trespass, injury to property and fraud and deceit.
The town board has authorized issuing up to $6 million in bonds, subject to a permissive referendum, for the cleanup at the park, and already has spent more than $4 million to remove the fill, according to the suit.
In December 2014, Thomas Datre Jr., Thomas Datre Sr., Grabe, Cianciulli, Montuori and Robinson, along with Daytree at Cortland Square, DFF Farm Corp., 5 Brothers Farming Corp. and Datre Family Farms were indicted by Suffolk prosecutors on charges they dumped contaminated debris at the park, a one-acre vacant lot in Central Islip, a six-home development for veterans in Islandia and the Brook Avenue site.
A trial that began in February was halted the next month after Thomas Datre Jr. pleaded guilty to four counts of endangering the public health, safety or the environment, a Class E felony. Grabe, whose trial was pending, pleaded guilty to two felony counts associated with the dumping, and a third felony relating to a criminal tax charge.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho stayed sentencing while Datre and Grabe attempt to help clean up the properties.
Trials are pending for Cianciulli, Montuori and Robinson.