updated 6/9/2006 9:50:00 PM ET 2006-06-10T01:50:00

A reputed mob boss, a former mayor and the owner of a trash-hauling business were among 29 people charged Friday in a federal investigation into the mob's influence over the region's trash-hauling industry.

The indictment alleges that companies owned by James Galante paid a "mob tax" to Matthew Ianniello, the reputed boss of the Genovese crime family. The payments were part of a scheme in which trash haulers carved out routes and agreed not to steal each other's customers, according to the indictment.

The mob influence stifled competition "by preventing small independent companies from competing," the indictment alleges.

Federal authorities arrested the three men on Friday and took over operations at Galante's trash-hauling businesses, which handles garbage pickup for thousands of customers in about 20 Connecticut towns, according to an attorney for the companies.

"Organized crime's stranglehold on the citizens of Connecticut through its control of the trash industry has been broken," said Kimberly Mertz, the state's top FBI agent.

The indictment also names former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro, who worked as a consultant for Galante's companies. Santopietro was charged with racketeering.

Campaign of intimidation alleged
Prosecutors allege that Galante paid Ianniello $200,000 in 2001, then $30,000 every three months until 2005.

They say a system carving out territory of trash haulers had been in effect since the mid-1980s. If companies challenged it, their drivers were assaulted, their trucks vandalized, and they were locked out of waste-transfer stations, prosecutors said.

Ianniello, known as "Matty the Horse," was released on $1 million bond and sent home, where he was under house arrest in an unrelated case.

"What can I say, right? Nothing," Ianniello said as he left court, smiling broadly and shaking hands with law enforcement officials.

Santopietro was released on $200,000 bond. His attorney, Martin Minella, said the allegations against his client were unclear from the 111-page indictment, but Santopietro denies any wrongdoing.

Galante was held without bond. His attorneys have said he is an honest businessman known for his civic work in Danbury.

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