Felons tied to organized crime are earning millions of dollars in New Jersey's poorly regulated recycling industry, despite a state law that sets out limited guidance. The State Commission of Investigation released a sharp report Tuesday called "Industrious Subversion - Circumvention of Oversight In Solid Waste and Recycling In New Jersey". It finds state rules aren't well enforced, state regulators don't share information that could stop criminals and the law's exceptions are so broad you could drive a garbage truck through them.
The bulk of the report is filled with example characters such as 'The Landlord', a felon who used leases to earn money off the recycling industry; 'The Hidden Hand', a felon who controls the waste company but outwardly appears to be just a lowly salesman; and "The Consultant", a felon who runs a separate company but is paid handsomely for his advice to a waste and recycling firm.
Frank Lemmo Jr. is dubbed 'the Poster Boy' because he's successfully exploited several loopholes in New Jersey's waste and recycling laws. The commissioners say "despite multiple criminal convictions and known ties to organized crime, Lemmo profited richly from the industry, operating for years in plain sight without intervention by state regulators."
When he emerged from prison, Lemmo set up a truck rental company that leased vehicles to a relative who collected recycling. He earned more than a million dollars a year until regulators stepped in. So in 2009 he sold the rental company for well over three million dollars a year. The trucks are stored on a parking lot that Lemmo still owns - he gets more than $100,000 in rent each year.
The commissioners say 30 criminals got waste-related work in New Jersey after they were booted out of other states, mostly New York, which has stricter trash regulations, according to the Star-Ledger.
They're worried about more than illegal profits. "Of particular concern," according to the report, "is the vulnerability to corruption of certain activities, such as the recycling and disposal of contaminated soil and demolition debris that pose serious potential environmental and public‐health consequences."
What are these companies dumping, and where are they dumping it? The commissioners say it's not just old newspapers: "Class D recyclable material includes oils, antifreeze, latex paints, batteries, mercury containing devices, and consumer electronics."
They want lawmakers to beef up regulations for proper waste and recycling disposal, cut felons out of the business and give the state attorney general new enforcement powers to make the regulations stick.