Organized crime is moving into the toxic waste disposal business in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and it already controls garbage disposal in those states, largely because state enforcement efforts are nonexistent, and FBI informant told a congressional subcommittee yesterday.
Harold Kaufman, testifying behind an opaque bullet-proof screen, said new state and federal laws on the disposal of hazardous chemicals had increased costs of legal chemical treatment so much for most industries that organized crime could make big money by taking it off their hands.
"You can get $20 to $30 a [cubic] yard for it and dump it for a dollar," he told the House government operations subcommittee. Nobody checks the trucks at New Jersey landfills designed for ordinary trash, he said, and no checks are made on applicants for six-month toxic waste hauling permits. They are often the same organized crime figures who now run garbage pickup, he said.
Kaufman entered the heavily guarded hearing room behind a cardboard face shield as television cameras were ordered shut off. Committee staff members said he had become an FBI informant two years ago while working in the New Jersey garbage business. Before that, Kaufman had served six years in federal prison in Atlanta for bank robbery.
New Jersey criminal justice division director Edwin H. Stier called Kaufman "one of the most important witnesses New Jersey has" in its ongoing probe of organized crime. His testimony has so far led to the indictment of 57 defendants in two pending cases, Stier said.
Kaufman, a short, balding man in his late 50s who wore a neck brace, said the Gambino family organized and controls a system of "property rights" in which garbage-hauling companies stake out territory where each can operate alone. Violators and intruding companies, he said, initially face "economic punishment" in which their waste pickup stops are "stolen" by other companies. If they persist, he said, "You get your legs broke, you get shot."
Among other things, he charged that John Albert of North Brunswick, N.J., once called a meeting to organize the toxic waste business along "property rights" lines, but Albert, the next witness, said that was a "fairy tale" and that Kaufman was "a whore, in plain English." Albert, who testified under subpoena and is under indictment in connection with an explosion and fire at the Chemical Control Co. dump in Elizabeth, N.J., pleaded the Fifth Amendment, protecting him against self-incrimination, a dozen times.