• U.S.

INVESTIGATIONS: Taking Out the Garbage

4 minute read

Starting afresh in his pursuit of shenanigans in labor and management, Arkansas’ Senator John McClellan and his investigating committee last week lifted the lid on a loaded garbage can. The finding: the $50 million-plus refuse-hauling industry in New York City and nearby Long Island and Westchester County is in the hands of grubby crooks, notably a half-pint (5 ft. 1 in., 122 Ibs.) ex-fruit-peddler named Vincent James Squillante.

The lessons in scavenging poured into the table microphones of the Senate Caucus Room in Washington as, one by one, independent garbage-collecting contractors told how Outsider Squillante used contacts in a Teamster union local to grab control of the Greater New York Carting Association. Bringing the cartmen into line, even to the point where owner-drivers had to join the union, Squillante’s hold became such that he could, at a whim, leave thousands of businessmen and householders with garbage piling up day by day on the sidewalks.

Where did Squillante’s power lie? Perched on the witness chair, the tiny, bespectacled racketeer politely pulled the Fifth Amendment to more than 100 questions, but the committee’s evidence appeared to be solid enough. As a member of the so-called Mafia (the ancient Sicilian vendetta society that some authorities claim is running U.S. racketeering), Squillante always managed to avoid deep trouble, although his address book produced the names of such crooks as Joey Surprise, Nanny the Geep and Joe Stutz. He got caught only once, on an income-tax rap. He solved that, the committee charged, by having his boys extract $57,855 from two cartmen’s groups, then paying up his taxes.

Socrates & Democracy. While Squillante was thus absorbed in financial matters, his educational director provided spiritual succor to his suckers. C. (for Casper) Don Modica, a genial cucumber of a man known to his wide circle of hoodlum friends as the Professor, was responsible for a variety of functions. He had once been an instructor at New York University in the philosophy of education. The Professor became private tutor to the children of only the best gangsters, e.g., Squillante’s godfather Albert Anastasia, Willie and Salvatore Moretti, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese. (He taught “Socrates to the moderns,” but not Machiavelli, he added thoughtfully, “because the philosophy of the end justifying the means is immoral.”) This duty followed long after the time he was jailed on separate occasions for practicing medicine without a license and grand larceny.

As a switch from the customary muscle operation, the Professor on at least one occasion used sweet-talk in pursuing the mob’s objectives, according to committee files. “Inasmuch,” he once implored a Jersey City cargo exporter, “as the Jersey City waterfront has immoral and undependable and unpredictable working types, I think you should consider moving your operators to Brooklyn [where the docks are run by “Tough Tony” Anastasia, the late Albert’s brother]. All I can offer you is the guarantee of a scholar and a gentleman. Let me assure you that I will give you 5,000 spiritually free, but morally bound longshoremen.”

Roses & Romance. As educational director, the Professor also edited the garbageman’s house organ, The Hired Broom, wrote inspiring editorials (“Out of Garbage There Grows a Rose”), so enthralled his readers with the feeling for the romance of garbage that one collector re-christened his wagon Egabrag, hardly less appealing when spelled backwards.

Like Squillante, the Professor showed up at the hearings, but in rasping, properly pedagogic tones grabbed the Fifth, and puffed away on Sweet Caporals. To newsmen he later allowed as how he had finished his doctoral dissertation, “Moral, Sociological and Economic Aspects of Labor-Management Relations,” but he avoided discussion of his old cronies. Observed the Professor, in a summing up that seemed to fit the imminent destiny of his scavenger pals: “They are all dead —literally.”

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