Cascino makes felony plea deal

The Columbia Paper

DIANE VALDEN  | July 12, 2012

ALBANY–Salvatore Cascino is out of the construction and demolition debris and solid waste business–at least on paper.

Late last month, a few days before he was to go on trial in Albany County Supreme Court on three felony counts, Mr. Cascino opted for a deal under which he pleaded guilty to one count of felony second degree offering a false instrument on behalf of his corporations.

Part of the plea deal is an agreement, called an “order on consent,” with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that prohibits Mr. Cascino and his companies from obtaining any registration or permit to operate a construction and demolition (c+d) debris processing facility.

He also had to relinquish any permits for such operations that he had, which means he can no longer operate or be associated with the operation of his waste-hauling business, Bronx County Recycling, at 475 Exterior Street in the Bronx.

In addition to the waste business, Mr. Cascino’s other “signatories” are listed as: River Edge Realty Corp., 476 Exterior Street in the Bronx, 13 Lackawanna LLC and Copake Valley Farm LLC.

Mr. Cascino, 72, a resident of Larchmont, owns 300 acres along the east side of Route 22, from about the southern entrance to the Copake hamlet south to County Route 3.

He named the place Copake Valley Farm and for the past 15 years has racked up violations of federal, state and town laws there related to everything from illegal dumping in a protected trout stream to building and excavating without securing proper permits.

Materials dumped at Mr. Cascino’s Copake property came from his Bronx County waste-hauling business, according to Investigator Jesse Paluch with the DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, who discussed the terms of the consent order with The Columbia Paper Tuesday.

Under the order Mr. Cascino is also not allowed to deal in certain types of solid waste or regulated wastes, such as hazardous wastes. He is also prohibited from bringing any solid waste to Copake Valley Farm, according to Investigator Paluch, who was the lead investigator on this latest case.

That investigation led to a June 2010 indictment brought by the state Attorney General’s Office, which charged that Mr. Cascino failed to disclose to the DEC in three annual filings–2008, 2009 and 2010–the receipt of contaminated debris (unauthorized solid waste) at his Bronx facility. Each count was a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

According to a DEC press release, all registered c+d processing facilities must not only report the amount of unauthorized waste the facility receives but also where it is disposed of. Mr. Cascino failed to report the receipt of large amounts of unauthorized waste, including wood, glass and plastics, some of which he dumped at a Route 9G property in Clermont.

Under the consent order, Mr. Cascino can still haul uncontaminated and clean recognizable fill, such as concrete and concrete products, asphalt, brick, glass, soil and rock. The DEC can’t restrict him from bringing in fill, which is something anyone can do, said Inv. Paluch, noting Mr. Cascino had been dumping “pulverized” material.

Also according to the order, Mr. Cascino was allowed to keep his permit for a mulching facility of clean, unadulterated wood at Copake Valley Farm.

But while DEC rules allow Mr. Cascino to bring in certain materials to his Copake Valley Farm, Copake law forbids it. The town general code chapter 194 titled solid waste says, “No person shall cause to be dumped, deposited or thrown any solid waste in or upon …any land within the Town of Copake, except at the Columbia County Transfer Station.”

Solid waste is listed under four categories in the law: garbage, refuse, construction debris and bulk items, and includes everything from paper to sewerage. Wood, metal, glass, ashes, dust, dirt, rock, concrete, sand, brick and stone are all listed as solid waste and are all not allowed.

The DEC consent order also called for the payment of a $20,000 fine related to the corporate criminal plea and a $5,000 penalty to be paid in connection with the resolution of outstanding civil violations at the facility from 2008. Both fines were paid at the time of the plea.

The outcome of this recent case is “important for our department,” said Investigator Paluch, who also credited Assistant Attorney General James Woods of the AG’s Criminal Prosecution Bureau with whom he worked closely on the case.

“We wanted him out of business; his permits are revoked, he can’t apply again. He can no longer be involved with the processing of c+d,” said the investigator.

“It’s also a big win for Columbia County residents because his stuff is not being spread all over the county anymore. He can’t be a party to it.”

The investigator also said Bronx County Recycling business name is no longer in use and that the facility is being leased by Mr. Cascino to the Coppola Brothers, who are running a business similar to Mr. Cascino’s there. The investigator seemed optimistic about the Coppola business, saying the firm had received awards and obtained permits from the Business Integrity Commission, the Department of Sanitation and the DEC.

After investing four years in the case, the investigator said he would have liked to have seen Mr. Cascino’s hand slapped a little harder in terms of a fine, noting he is a multi-millionaire.

The investigator believes that Mr. Cascino, who previously rejected a plea deal after a special court date was arranged specifically to accommodate his acceptance of a deal, decided to take the latest offer because was he feared doing jail time.

For a decade Mr. Cascino has bought tracts of land and filled in the low-lying areas and wetlands with waste, said the investigator, who went on to describe how, based on his investigation, Mr. Cascino made money by accepting loads of waste for $25/yard.

At that rate on a 40-yard truckload, Mr. Cascino received $1,000. But instead of dumping the load at his Bronx facility and processing it or removing unacceptable components, Mr. Cascino instead paid his driver $100 to take the unprocessed load somewhere and dump it. Other costs associated with the load may have been $100 worth of diesel fuel for the trip and $50 in truck maintenance, leaving him a profit of $750. One Cascino worker told the investigator Mr. Cascino could rake in $40,000 to $60,000/day.

Reached by phone, Wednesday morning, Attorney Brian Gardner, who represented Mr. Cascino in the latest case, said he would check with his client and call back with any comments on the plea deal and/or the status of Bronx County Recycling his client wanted to make. A return call was not received by press time.

A check with Copake Planning Board Chair Marcia Becker about any recent Cascino applications revealed that Mr. Cascino applied for several building permits for a farm stand, a large barn, a lathe house and bins, silos, a run-in shed and hay barn expansion back in March.

The applications were referred to the Planning Board for site plan review. The plans are reminiscent of the proposal for several  large structures Mr. Cascino unsuccessfully sought approval for in 2008.

Mrs. Becker said she advised Mr. Cascino that he had to pay a $150 application fee and she would put him on the board’s agenda. She said she had not heard any more about the applications since.

In summing up the recent case, Inv. Paluch said of Mr. Cascino, “He’s done, at least on paper.”

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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