Smithtown continues to employ a garbage-collection company indicted in November on state charges of falsely billing the town hundreds of thousands of dollars for garbage picked up from elsewhere on Long Island.
“If we were to stop them from picking up, we’d have to figure out” which other contractors could step in to do the job, Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said, adding that town officials are reviewing their carting options and may seek restitution from the company, V. Garofalo Carting, for the alleged false billing.
In 2017 the town paid $2.1 million to the contractor for garbage pickup at nearly half the town's 37,000 homes. That contract was signed in 2014 and is due to run through 2020.
But the company also picked up a much smaller portion of the town's commercial garbage under contracts with the businesses, state prosecutors allege. The alleged false billing occurred in connection with that work
Under Smithtown's commercial garbage plan, which prosecutors said appeared to be unique on Long Island, carters pay no tipping fee when they deliver town commercial garbage to the Covanta Huntington Resource Recovery Facility in East Northport. Instead, that cost is included in a waste generation fee the town assesses to each business.
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said in an interview his office's investigation showed the company had exploited the plan for almost $1 million by delivering garbage from outside clients to the Covanta plant under the pretense that it had come from businesses in Smithtown.
Russell Barnett, Smithtown's top solid waste official, said the alleged behavior cost town taxpayers, taking up excess capacity at the plant that could otherwise have been sold to other users.
The company and cousins Mario Garofalo, 60, the firm's president, and Robert Garofalo, 64, a driver, were indicted in Suffolk County Supreme Court Nov. 15 on six felony counts of enterprise corruption, money laundering, conspiracy, grand larceny, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, along with misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and operating a solid waste facility without a permit. They pleaded not guilty. Robert Garofalo, of Kings Park, was released on recognizance, and Mario Garafalo, of East Northport, was released on $100,000 bond, according to records.
Robert Macedonio, the Islip Terrace attorney representing the company, said it “will continue to provide the same quality of service they always have while this matter is resolved.”
Town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said in a text message that town officials had vetted the company before awarding it the 2014 contract and determined that it was "qualified to perform the work."
Barnett said Garafalo "has provided an acceptable level of service on collection work," adding that the town's commercial garbage plan has insulated town businesses from volatile disposal prices and ensured that they have a place to deposit their waste in an era of rapidly dwindling landfill space across Long Island.
Past conduct is only one factor that town officials consider when evaluating bids, she said, along with "our experience with the bidder and past performance for the town. Cost is also a major factor given that disqualification of a low bidder ultimately results in increased costs to our taxpayers."
Company founder Vincent Garofalo pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of stolen property, a felony, in 1984, according to records.
The firm and two Garofalo family members, Mario Garofalo and Ralph Garofalo, were indicted in Suffolk Supreme Court in 1991 in what prosecutors at the time told Newsday was the company's illegal takeover of an 11-acre parcel of Islip’s Pilgrim State Hospital property that adjoined its land, dumping debris and medical waste and mining at least $950,000 worth of sand and gravel there.
In 1993, according to court records, Mario and Ralph Garofalo pleaded guilty to felony charges of grand larceny and criminal mischief in connection with that case.
Smithtown officials said at the time they were concerned about the alleged dumping's proximity to the town border. "We brought it to the DEC's attention . . .," John Valentine, then Smithtown’s code enforcement director, told Newsday in 1991. Valentine is now the town’s public safety director.
In the mid-1990s, the company was assessed a $250,000 penalty in connection with the Pilgrim allegations, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Sini and chief investigator John Barry said their case began with a reinvestigation of a 2014 Town of Smithtown complaint. Their investigation used Covanta records, surveillance video and data from a GPS tracking service that Mario Garofalo had installed on his own trucks, they said.
Mario and Robert Garafalo face up to 25 years in prison and the company could be closed if prosecutors win convictions on all counts, Sini said. His office has already seized some of the company’s equipment and has also moved against its bank accounts and real estate, Sini said.
Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Robert Garofalo of Port Washington as the V. Garofalo Carting driver who was indicted in Suffolk County Supreme Court on Nov. 15 on six felony counts including enterprise corruption. The Robert Garofalo who was indicted lives in Kings Park. Newsday regrets the error.