updated 6/3/2008 3:51:55 PM ET 2008-06-03T19:51:55

A trash hauler who was at the center of a sweeping federal investigation of mob influence in the industry pleaded guilty Tuesday and agreed to surrender dozens of businesses worth more than $100 million.

James Galante, whose trash businesses handled about 80 percent of the refuse in southwestern Connecticut, faces 70 to 87 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

He entered guilty pleas to charges of racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and wire fraud conspiracy.

"The government is satisfied with this guilty plea," acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy said.

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped dozens of other charges, including racketeering and mail fraud.

Galante's attorney, Hugh Keefe, said the plea deal stemmed from a long and complicated negotiation.

"Unlike a lot of plea agreements, both sides seemed to be relatively content with this disposition," Keefe said. "But I'm never happy when a client goes to jail for a substantial period of time, and this is a substantial period of time no matter what some people think."

Galante agreed to forfeit 25 companies that he valued at more than $100 million, though he'll get $10.7 million back after the government sells the companies. He also will hand over other property and pay $1.6 million in income taxes, and could be fined up to $750,000.

The Danbury resident and 28 others were indicted in 2006 on charges of participating in a scheme to drive up trash rates.

Most of his co-defendants have pleaded guilty, including former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro and the aging reputed boss of the Genovese organized crime family, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, 86. Prosecutors alleged that Galante paid a quarterly $30,000 mob tax to Ianniello in exchange for mob muscle to stifle competition.

Galante's sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 22.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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