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Long IslandTowns

6 men indicted in Islip dumping investigation

Six people were indicted Monday, Dec. 8, 2014,

Six people were indicted Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, on charges of illegally dumping debris in Suffolk County. They are, from left to right, starting at top: Brett A. Robinson, Joseph J. Montouri Jr., Thomas Datre Jr., Christopher Grabe, Ronald Cianciulli and Thomas Datre Sr. Photo Credit: SCDA

The son of a politically connected Long Island businessman was the "mastermind" behind a greed-fueled dumping scheme, aided at one location by two town officials, that caused an "environmental catastrophe" in Islip, prosecutors said Monday.

Thomas Datre Jr. was one of six men named in a 32-count indictment unsealed in state Supreme Court Monday as part of the Suffolk County district attorney's investigation into dumping in and around Islip.

The indictment -- the product of a three-month investigation by a special grand jury that has heard testimony from 62 witnesses -- also names Thomas Datre Jr.'s father, businessman and longtime Islip GOP and Conservative Party donor and fundraiser Thomas Datre Sr.; former Islip Town Parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former executive secretary, Brett A. Robinson; Christopher Grabe of Islandia Recycling; and Ronald Cianciulli of Atlas Asphalt, a Deer Park paving company.

Four businesses connected with the Datre family also were named in the indictment, which includes charges of criminal mischief and multiple violations of state environmental laws.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said the indictment painted "a stark portrait of greed, abuse of power and corruption that resulted in an environmental catastrophe for the residents of the Town of Islip, both today and surely for many years to come."

All six defendants pleaded not guilty before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, and all were released on their own recognizance. They are due back in court Jan. 8.

Thomas Datre Jr., who is charged with 29 counts, including felony criminal mischief, and faces millions of dollars in fines, was the "mastermind" in a scheme to dump contaminated fill on Long Island instead of paying to properly dispose of it, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Pitman said in court Monday.

"He contaminated our county," she said.

 

Debris by the truckload

Prosecutors allege that hundreds of truckloads of debris, primarily from New York City, was dumped under the direction of Thomas Datre Jr., 41, of St. James, at four sites: Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a vacant lot at the corner of Sage Street and Islip Avenue in Central Islip, a six-home development for veterans in Islandia and a protected wetlands area off Brook Avenue in Deer Park, on the Islip-Babylon border.

Thomas Datre Sr., a prominent political fundraiser who donated and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Islip Republican committee and the town Conservative Party along with his wife Clara Datre, faces five counts based on the dumping at Veterans Way.

Pitman said Thomas Datre Sr., 68, of Hauppauge, who headed the charitable organization that built the veterans housing, allegedly arranged for his son to bring "bad material" there even though he knew it to be unacceptable.

"He did not stop the bad material from coming in -- he allowed it to continue," she said.

Attorney Kevin Kearon of Garden City, who represents Thomas Datre Jr., Thomas Datre Sr. and the four Datre family companies charged in the indictment -- Daytree at Cortland Square, DFF Farm Corp., Datre Family Farms and 5 Brothers Farming Corporation -- called the district attorney's case "fictional."

"Any suggestion that the Datre family in any way, shape or form knowingly put anyone at risk . . . is a vile, repugnant and demonstrable lie," Kearon said in a statement. "The Datres will defend this case vigorously and look forward to their exoneration and the restoration of their good family name."

The scheme, which prosecutors said began at the Central Islip site as early as April 2013, allowed the defendants to avoid paying fees of at least $1,500 per truckload to legitimately dispose of the debris, Spota said. There were an estimated 1,700 to 1,800 truckloads dumped at the four sites, he said.

Over time, some of the contamination -- which included asbestos, petroleum-based products, heavy metals and pesticides -- could have endangered the aquifer system that supplies Long Island's drinking water, Spota said.

The defendants "weren't concerned in the slightest degree about drinking water or the health and welfare of the public or the environment," Spota said. "The only thing they cared about was making money for their own personal enrichment."

The scheme at the park was aided by former town officials Montuori and Robinson, who allegedly knew about the dumping and did nothing to stop it, said Mark Murray, deputy chief of the Suffolk district attorney's narcotics bureau on special assignment to the government corruption bureau.

Montuori, 61, of East Islip, "hurried to remove some fill" at the park in January when public suspicion of dumping occurred, then "lied" and told town and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials everything was fine, Murray said.

Montuori's attorney, John Halverson of Patchogue, said his client "at no time allowed the dumping of improper material" at the park.

"When Mr. Montuori found out there was an issue of dumping, he immediately went to correct it," Halverson said, adding that Montuori has "no connection" to the Datres.

Robinson, 30, of Lindenhurst, who supervised the park that "served as a gateway for dumping," allegedly ignored a November 2013 public safety report that detailed what a town employee saw going on at the park, Murray said.

Spota said he believed the motivation for the two former town officials was to "assist and aid politically connected people," but added that his office could not establish whether the two men were directed by others to do so.

Robinson's attorney, Patrick O'Connell of Central Islip, said his client has "cooperated fully" with the district attorney.

"We've maintained we've done nothing wrong," O'Connell said. "We didn't know anything about any hazardous material."

Montuori, who is a Conservative Party member in addition to his former post as Islip Town parks commissioner, was forced to resign his town job in May after the dumping scandal broke. Robinson was fired.

 

Meeting alleged

The indictment charges that Montuori met in January with Thomas Datre Jr. and "a local political party official to broker Datre Jr.'s removal of some of the unsuitable materials from the recharge basin at Roberto Clemente Park, to avoid further scrutiny of the site."

Newsday reported in August that Montuori met Thomas Datre Jr. and Islip Conservative Party leader Michael Torres at a local Italian restaurant to discuss what was going on at the park, two sources with knowledge of this meeting said.

Neither Councilman Anthony Senft, who was the Islip Town Board's liaison to the parks department at the time of the dumping at the park, nor Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci responded to calls for comment yesterday.

Islip Town Attorney Robert Cicale issued a statement saying the town has "fully cooperated" with the district attorney's office "and will continue to do so in every way possible so that those responsible will be held accountable."

But sources familiar with the investigation said Islip elected officials declined to participate in any aspect of the investigation.

Grabe, who faces 17 counts for alleged crimes at the park and the Central Islip site, served as Thomas Datre Jr.'s "dispatcher" and "the point of contact" at the park, Pitman said.

Grabe, 37, of Coram, said he had donated $70,000 worth of labor and materials to a Brentwood church that had asked Islip Town if the soccer fields in the park could be repaired, which ultimately led to the dumping there.

The town stopped Grabe from working at the park in April. Grabe's attorney, Matt Tuohy of Hauppauge, said his client "didn't know these types of criminal or reckless things were going on."

"He had no reason to believe anything was illegal, especially with town officials around," Tuohy said, adding that his client "was just a worker for the Datre company."

Pitman said Cianciulli acted criminally by "setting up a hiding spot for his friend Tom Datre Jr." to dump contaminated fill at the Deer Park wetlands site.

"His reckless actions endangered the public," Pitman said.

Cianciulli, 48, of Brightwaters, was charged with seven counts in the indictment. His company, Atlas Asphalt, had rented a soil sifter that was found near a 300-foot berm of fill that had been placed illegally on the protected wetlands area off Sampawams Creek in Deer Park, according to investigators. Atlas Asphalt is headquartered on the same block as the wetlands area.

"These are easy and sensational accusations to make, but as to Ron Cianciulli, they are untrue so they will be impossible to prove," said John Carman, the Garden City attorney representing Cianciulli.

 

April probe

Spota began investigating the dumping in April, when investigators discovered about 50,000 tons of contaminated debris at soccer fields and a recharge basin at the park.

The district attorney's probe then spread to the three other sites where debris has been found. Analyses show that the materials dumped at the four sites are similar, Spota has said.

Spota said Monday the indictment does not signal the end of the probe. The special grand jury that returned the indictments will continue to meet until at least February.

Nelsena Day, a Brentwood resident and community activist with Suffolk County's chapter of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change, was in court during the arraignments.

"I'd like to see all of them go to jail," Day said after court. "No one was accepting responsibility -- it was always being put off on the church. I'm glad to see the major people in this are being held accountable."

 

The defendants

 

Thomas Datre Jr.

Job: President of 5 Brothers Farming Corp. and owner of DFF Farm Corp.

Accusation: Described by prosecutors as the mastermind of the dumping scheme. He's charged with crimes at all four sites where state environmental laws were allegedly violated.

Charges faced: 5 counts of second-degree criminal mischief, 14 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 4 counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 5 counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, 1 count of engaging in regulated activities within mapped freshwater wetlands without a permit.


Thomas Datre Sr.

Job: Local businessman and former member of the Islip Town plumbing board

Accusation: Charged for his activities related to the dumping at the Veterans Way development in Islandia.

Charges faced: 1 count of second-degree criminal mischief, 3 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 1 count of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.

 

Christopher Grabe

Job: Operates Island Recycling

Accusation: Described by prosecutors as Thomas Datre Jr.'s dispatcher and the person who presented Thomas Datre Jr. with the opportunity to dump contaminants at Roberto Clemente Park. Grabe allegedly picked up material from New York City and dumped it on Long Island because proper disposal would have cost more money, prosecutors say.

Charges faced: 3 counts of second-degree criminal mischief, 8 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 3 counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 3 counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.

 

Ronald Cianciulli

Job: Owner of Atlas Asphalt

Accusation: Charged for his activities related to the dumping at a property and its adjacent wetlands at Brook Avenue in Deer Park.

Charges faced: 1 count of second-degree criminal mischief, 3 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 1 count of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 1 count of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, 1 count of engaging in regulated activities within mapped freshwater wetlands without a permit.

 

Joseph Montuori

Job: Former Islip parks department commissioner

Accusation: Montuori failed to stop the dumping of pollutants in Clemente park, prosecutors allege, and then tried to cover up the dumping after other town officials began asking questions.

Charges faced: 5 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 2 counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 2 counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, 2 counts of official misconduct, 1 count of sixth-degree conspiracy.

 

Brett Robinson

Job: Former executive secretary to Montouri

Accusation: Montuori failed to stop the dumping of pollutants in Clemente park, prosecutors allege, and then tried to cover up the dumping after other town officials began asking questions.

Charges faced: 5 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 2 counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 2 counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, 2 counts of official misconduct, 1 count of sixth-degree conspiracy.

 

The companies

The companies all are owned and/or operated by members of the Datre family.

 

5 Brothers Farming Corp.

Charges faced: 5 counts of second-degree criminal mischief, 14 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 4 counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 5 counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.

 

Daytree at Cortland Square Inc.

Charges faced: 5 counts of second-degree criminal mischief, 14 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 4 counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 5 counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.

 

Datre Family Farms Inc.

Charges faced: 2 counts of second-degree criminal mischief, 5 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 2 counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 2 counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.

 

DFF Farm Corp.

Charges faced: 1 count of second-degree criminal mischief, 3 counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 1 count of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, 1 count of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.

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