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Monday, 18 June 2012

organized crime is trying for a comeback at the Hunts Point.


01:05 |

When cops busted up a $1 million-a-year Mafia bookmaking ring at the city's biggest produce market in late 2006, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly warned the mob: “Stay out of Hunts Point Market.”

Just over five years later, organized crime is trying for a comeback at the Hunts Point.
 
In the last year, city investigators have denied licenses to three produce companies with alleged mob ties. Last month, two reputed gangsters used a fork and glass plates to bloody a local restaurateur they claimed owed them money for lettuce.
 
The timing of this goodfella resurgence is not so good.
 
The city is pushing to spend big taxpayer bucks to overhaul the aging facility that provides 60% of the fruit and vegetables consumed across the five boroughs.
 
City and state officials are talking about splitting the cost of a $320 million upgrade with the wholesalers who lease the city-owned space so they don’t make good on their threat to move to New Jersey.
 
A key issue is who will pay what. But a growing obstacle is what role the city will play in keeping an eye out for mob involvement at the market.
 
Since 2001, that role has belonged to the Business Integrity Commission, the agency that recently spotted what they viewed as attempts by organized crime to sneak back into the market.
 
Last year, BIC infuriated Hunts Point’s 40-plus produce vendors by hiking licensing fees from $250 to $4,000 and charging workers up to $650 for required background checks.
 
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. confirmed the ongoing talks about upgrading Hunts Point include discussion about changing BIC’s role there, a role he feels should be reduced because the mob’s power has shrunk.
 
“I think BIC should back off,” Diaz said. “I think the time of John Gotti and Vinnie the Chin Gigante is all said and done.”
 
Don’t tell that to Gennaro Alaio, co-owner of Patricia’s of Tremont, a highly-praised Italian restaurant in Throg’s Neck.
 
In February Alaio told police two men came to his restaurant seeking what he owed them for lettuce he bought from their company, River Produce.
 
One man was Vincent Bondi, who swung a fork at him, then whacked him in the head with a metal chair, and finally tossed glass dinner plates at him, court records charge.
 
Bondi, Alaio says, was assisted by John Donnadio, who hit him in the face, then shoved him to the floor. Both men were arrested and face assault charges.
 
Bondi is identified by law enforcement as a Genovese family associate who did two years in prison on extortion charges.
 
He set up River Produce while he was on probation, buying fruits and vegetables at Hunts Point and selling them to restaurateurs.
 
His “right hand man” at River is Donnadio, identified by law enforcement as a Luchese crime family associate who served time for racketeering and attempted kidnapping.
 
When Bondi applied to BIC for a wholesale license in 2009, he admitted that a former partner in a loansharking business once told borrowers, “If you don’t pay, Vinnie Bondi will put a bullet in your chin.”
 
Questioned by BIC about his “right hand man” Donnadio, Bondi replied, “He knew a few people. He did whatever he did. Unfortunately they categorize people.”
 
Both men’s lawyer, Stacey Richman, said both men have nothing to do with the mob and claimed Alaio attacked first. Alaio did not return a call seeking comment.
 
In August BIC rejected River Produce’s license request. Last week in a windowless back room at River, Bondi told a News reporter he was being railroaded by BIC:
 
“I’m a legitimate guy. I pay my taxes. I’m going to keep doing what I do, but they won’t let me.”
 
Another alleged Genovese family associate with connections to the market is John Caggiano, who was arrested and kicked out in 2006 for running the mob’s million-dollar bookmaking operation at Hunts Point.
 
At the time, Caggiano owned C&S Wholesale Produce, selling produce he bought at Hunts Point. After his arrest, he had to dissolve C&S, but within a year he had formed ADJ Wholesale Produce, named after his wife, Ann Marie, and his children, Dominick and Joanna.
 
Records list the principals as a real estate broker and her husband, a funeral home owner who happens to be the brother of Caggiano’s mob overseer, a Genovese soldier named Ralph Balsamo.
 
During his parole hearing in January 2010, Caggiano, without naming ADJ,  made his control of the firm quite clear.
 
“They’re not familiar with the produce business, and they’re losing money, and they need someone to run it, manage it, and show them how to save money,” he said.
 
“We’re assuming that’s a legitimate enterprise,” a parole board member said.
 
"Yes it is," Caggiano replied.
 
In February BIC denied ADJ’s license request. Last week workers at the market talked about seeing ADJ trucks there as recently as two weeks ago.
 
A lawyer for Caggiano, Bondi and Donnadio, former Bronx prosecutor Paul Gentile, questioned whether BIC sometimes oversteps its bounds.
 
“I’m sure they do good and they’re necessary, but there’s no check, no balance,” he said. “In some areas, some of these guys deserve what happened to them and some don’t.”
 
One man Gentile felt didn’t deserve BIC’s attention was his client Silvestro LoVerde, who applied for a Hunts Point license in 2009.
 
BIC discovered that for years, LoVerde was business partners with Frank Cali, an acting capo in the Gambino crime family.
 
When questioned by the BIC, LoVerde claimed he was unaware of Cali’s mob resume, despite Cali’s pleading guilty to extortion in 2008 and getting a 16-month prison term.
 
“I never look at who’s who, who’s what, because the bottom line to me is I don’t care,” he said.
 
Cali, for his part, gave the commission his name, date of birth and Social Security number, then took the Fifth
to every other question.
 
BIC shot down LoVerde’s request, but he appealed. The court upheld that rejection in June, but Gentile is considering taking the case to federal court.MOB17N_3

MARIELA LOMBARD FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

John Caggiano, an alleged Genovese crime family associate, was forced to dissolve his produce business, but within a year he formed ADJ Wholesale Produce. 




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