Property owners in Calverton, Baiting Hollow, Flanders and Greenport were among the victims of an illegal dumping ring that advertised “free screened clean fill” in places like Craigslist. But ultimately the victims were left with solid waste that often contained toxic and acutely hazardous materials like arsenic, lead and mercury.
On Monday, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini announced a 130-count indictment on the dumping ring that charged 30 individuals and nine corporations.
Charges include second-degree criminal mischief, a class D felony that carries a sentence of up to seven years in jail; fifth-degree conspiracy; operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, and endangering the public health, safety or environment.
All told, “Operation Pay Dirt,” a months-long investigation along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, dealt with 24 different locations where dumping occurred or was attempted, Mr. Sini said, adding that 21 of the locations were in Suffolk County and three were in Nassau County. He said 19 of the locations were people’s homes.
“This is undoubtedly the largest environmental crime case in New York State,” Mr. Sini said. He added that some of the arrests date back to July, and that the investigation will continue.
The ring leaders, according to Mr. Sini, was Anthony Grazio, 53, of Smithtown, who is also known as “Rock,” and the Durante Brothers Construction Corp in Queens, led by John Durante, 44, of Old Bethpage and Louis Durante, 46, of Queens. Material from their recycling and transfer station was often trucked out to properties on Long Island, according to Mr. Sini.
“He preyed on these victims and their request for free fill and they were left digging themselves out of hundreds of yards of a complete mess,” Mr. Sini said.
Mr. Grazio ran fake ads online for free, clean fill. But in reality, material from recycling and transfer stations in New York City and Long Island would be brought to unsuspecting property owners and dumped.
Among the local cases, the indictment says that on June 13, 2017, a Calverton nursery on Sound Avenue received fill from Durante Brothers that contained two acutely hazardous materials — dieldrin and aldrin.
On May 16, Carlos Melgar, 41, of Patchogue arranged for a load of material containing solid waste originating from the Durante Brothers Construction Corp in Queens to be dumped on a Calverton processing facility on Middle County Road.
On May 14, Mr. Grazio sent a text message to Thomas St. Clair, 51, of Saint James, instructing him to dump material at a residential location on Flanders Road in Riverside. On May 29, Cesar Ivan Bermeo, 33, of Queens coordinated for three Kris Trucking Corp trucks to each dump a load of material containing solid waste at the Flanders Road site.
The indictment says $1,500 worth of damage was done to the property.
A residential site on Landing Lane in Greenport also received a delivery of material from Durante Brothers that was delivered by Mr. Melgar. That delivery included solid waste and caused $1,500 worth of damage, according to the indictment.
“It’s bad enough to dump solid waste and dangerous materials in someone’s front or backyards given the dangers that it poses to children and others,” Mr. Sini said. “But what’s even worse here in Suffolk County is that we live on an aquifer where we get our drinking water, so when we deal with illegal dumping, there is also the potential for it to affect our water supply.”
Those arrested were:
- Alberto Santiago, 49, of Shirley
- Alex Bermeo-Bajana, 40, of Queens
- Alix Aparicio Gomez, 50, of Huntington
- Angel Cornejo, 47, of Queens
- Anthony Grazio a/k/a Rock, 53, of Smithtown
- Anthony Grazio Jr., 19, of Smithtown
- Carlos Melgar, 41, of Patchogue
- Cesar Ivan Bermeo, 33, of Queens
- Dwayne Sanders, 56, of Central Islip
- Edgar Mera, 48, of Queens
- Fausto De Los Santos, 21, of Queens
- Feliciano Cruz, 57, of Queens
- Frank Rotondo Jr., 47, of Miller Place
- Santos Ivan Delgado, 39, of Bay Shore
- James Perruzza, 18, of Northport
- James Williams, 56 of Copiague
- John Durante, 44 of Old Bethpage
- Jose Adamez, 51, of the Bronx
- Joseph Lamberta, 68, of Hauppauge
- Louis Durante, 46 of Queens
- Michael Heinrichs, 48, of Port Jefferson Station
- Milan Parik, 46, of Centereach
- Robert Hirsch, 43 of Commack
- Robert Walter, 31, of Nesconset
- Steven Nunez Genao, 24, of Port Jefferson Station
- Thomas St. Clair, 51, of Saint James
- Vito Fragola, 44, of Commack
- Wilfred Torres, 44, of Ronkonkoma
- William Romero, 38 of Brentwood
- Yasmael Nunez, 48, of Queens
Top photo caption: District Attorney Timothy Sini speaks at a press conference in Riverhead Monday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)