A “dirt broker” who Suffolk prosecutors said led a massive scheme that supplied contaminated fill to construction sites across Long Island was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in prison Monday.
At a sentencing hearing in Riverhead, Suffolk County Court Judge Timothy Mazzei also ordered Anthony “Rock” Grazio, 54, of Smithtown, to pay $500,000 in restitution.
“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message: It does not pay to commit environmental crimes in Suffolk County any longer,” Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said afterward.
Prosecutors say that between January and July of 2018, Grazio led a criminal ring that obtained fill contaminated by diesel fuel, heavy metals and other toxic substances, from trucking and demolition companies. Grazio and his associates then supplied it to homeowners and others seeking clean fill for construction sites and landscaping projects.
“The defendant, with no regard for the safety and well-being of Suffolk County residents, facilitated the dumping of solid waste on residential properties, properties near schools and other sites,” Sini said. “Many of the sites contained materials that were hazardous or acutely hazardous.”
Grazio apologized for his actions after a brief court appearance last week and again at his sentencing, saying he did not intentionally distribute polluted fill.
But prosecutors say it was clear from wiretaps and other evidence that Grazio knew he was supplying contaminated fill to construction sites, and Mazzei rebuked him Monday for not accepting responsibility for his actions.
Grazio’s attorney, James Vlahadamis of Hampton Bays, said his client hoped to tell the court that he should have paid closer attention to the contents of the material he distributed across Long Island, and that Grazio’s statement in the courtroom Monday did not come out as he had hoped.
“He is remorseful for what happened,” Vlahadamis said. “He has accepted his responsibility.”
Sini’s office, along with Suffolk police and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, launched a monthslong investigation into illegal dumping on Long Island called “Operation Pay Dirt” in February 2018. The investigation led to a 130-count indictment against nine corporations and 30 individuals, including Grazio, who are accused of illegally disposing contaminated waste at 24 locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The indictment was unsealed in November 2018.
In May, Grazio pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree mischief, two counts of endangering public health and other criminal charges.
“Illegal dumping poses a serious threat to our environment, and New York will not allow businesses to continue to harm the state’s environment and its citizens while putting profits over public health,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.