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Authorities arrested dozens of reputed members and associates of three crime families on racketeering and other charges stemming from an extortion investigation involving garbage hauling companies in New York and New Jersey.

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney of the Southern District of New York, announced that 30 men were arrested on Wednesday  following a three-and-a-half  year investigation by the FBI, Westchester County Police and New York State Police. Two other men who will face charges from the investigation were expected to turn themselves in.

Authorities say many of those arrested were reputed members of the Gambino, Genovese and Luchese crime families.

Among those charged Wednesday was Carmine Franco, a 77-year-old man from Ramsey, New Jersey who authorities said had the nickname of “Papa Smurf.” Franco was once a major figure in the garbage hauling business but had been barred from the industry after being convicted of  corporate misconduct charges in 1998 for illegally disposing of trash out of state.

The indictment said that Franco continued to assert control over waste and hauling businesses by extorting proceeds from the owners of those companies.

Franco was awaiting arraignment on racketeering, extortion and other charges Wednesday. Neither he nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

Five reputed members of a Genovese crew located in Lodi, N.J., were also charged in the same indictment with racketeering for allegedly attempting to extort their own “protection money” from one of the company’s that Franco allegedly secretly controlled, according to the indictment.

Another man charged with extortion in the indictment is Mario Velez, a 44-year-old former New York State Police officer who had been assigned as a school resource officer at a Westchester County high school. Velez is charged along with two others in the indictment with allegedly forcing a trash hauler to turn his business over to them in 2011 while Velez was still on the police force. Velez was also awaiting arraignment Wednesday and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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Others were charged with loan sharking to those working in the garbage hauling business. One $12,500 loan, for example, came with an interest rate of $375 a week, the indictment states. The indictment charges that other men were involved in stealing garbage containers and selling them to rival trash haulingbusinesses.

“The indictments show the ongoing threat posed by mob families and their criminal associates,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George C. Venizelos in a statement. “In addition to the violence that often accompanies their schemes, the economic impact amounts to a mob tax on goods and services. The arrests – the culmination of a long and thorough investigation – also show the ongoing determination of the FBI to diminishing the influence of La Cosa Nostra.”

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