PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – A former New York state trooper and Hendrick Hudson school district resource officer was among 29 men who pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges related to organized crime in the carting industry.
Mario Velez, 44, of Peekskill was charged earlier this month with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion following an investigation into a waste carting enterprise designed to extort money from customers, according to Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“All 29 defendants were arraigned yesterday before U.S. District Judge Kevin P. Castel in Manhattan federal court and all pleaded not guilty,” said Herbert Hadad, spokesperson for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. “All defendants are free on bail.”
The defendants controlled the waste carting enterprise by dictating routes, extorting payments in exchange for protection, and asserting and enforcing "property rights" over trash pickup routes, the U.S. attorney said. The enterprise operated in the New York metropolitan area under the control of the Genovese, Gambino and Luchese Mafia families, the indictment says.
Some of the defendants are charged with committing other crimes, including stealing property of competing waste disposal businesses and defrauding businesses of their customers, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
A trial date for all of the defendants has been scheduled for Sept. 23.