Smithtown resident Anthony “Rock” Grazio, the self-proclaimed “dirt broker,” plead guilty in an alleged illegal dumping conspiracy on Long Island.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced the guilty plea May 2 after digging into the issue over the last 15 months. Thirty people, including Grazio, and nine corporations were indicted in November 2018 in an ongoing investigation called Operation Pay Dirt.
More than 24 Long Island dump sites were involved in the alleged conspiracy.
“As I’ve stated before, we are facing an epidemic of environmental crimes in Suffolk County,” Sini said. “This case was a great first step forward in ending those crimes. This plea, and Grazio’s pending prison sentence, will send a strong message to polluters that crime does not pay.”
Between January and July 2018, as part of the alleged illegal dumping conspiracy, Grazio would allegedly act as a dirt broker by arranging for locations where trucking companies could illegally dispose of solid waste. Grazio posted advertisements on the website craigslist and on OfferUp, a marketplace app, for “clean fill,” or material that could be used for residential landscaping projects. He also solicited homeowners over the phone and in person for locations to use for dumping. Grazio would then coordinate with the owners or operators of trucking companies and solid waste management facilities to have solid waste illegally dumped at those properties.
In February 2018, the District Attorney’s Office, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Police Department began an investigation into the alleged Island-wide conspiracy. The months-long investigation involved the use of electronic and physical surveillance, including court-authorized eavesdropping.
“During their phone conversations, Rock and the owners or operators of the trucking companies would discuss residential and commercial sites and the amount of material that could be dumped at a particular site,” Sini said. “The bigger the property, the better for the defendants, as this scam was all about making money.”
Sini said that when an ideal property was found, Grazio could often be heard directing his co-conspirators to “hit it hard.”
“This is a situation where people deliberately skirted the law to line their pockets with money and acted out of pure greed at the expense of the public health of residents of Suffolk County,” Sini said.
DEC testing of the illegally dumped solid waste found that six of the locations contained acutely hazardous substances and 17 sites contained hazardous substances under New York State Environmental Conservation Law. The acutely hazardous substances included aldrin, dieldrin and heptachlor, which are all pesticides. The hazardous substances identified include arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc and mercury, which are all metals.
Nineteen of the 24 locations are residential, four are commercial and one is a school. The solid waste dumped at the school was immediately removed.
Grazio, 54, plead guilty to two counts of criminal mischief in the second degree, a felony; two counts of endangering public health, safety or the environment in the third degree, a felony; conspiracy in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor; and operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, a misdemeanor.
Grazio is scheduled to be sentenced by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazzei July 15. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Grazio faces a sentence of two to four years in prison and a restitution judgment order in the amount of $500,000. This case is being prosecuted by assistant district attorneys Luigi Belcastro, Laura Sarowitz and Adriana Noyola of the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau.
The investigation is ongoing, and Sini convened a special grand jury in November to hear evidence and make recommendations regarding illegal dumping in Suffolk County. The grand jury is still impaneled.
Residents who believe they are a victim of illegal dumping can contact the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office at 631-853-5602 or InfoDA@suffolkcountyny.gov. They can also contact the NYS DEC’s 24-hour Poacher and Polluter hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS, 1-844-332-3267.