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Bernie and the Mob?

August 28, 2006

Former NYPD police commissioner Bernie Kerik’s lawyer Joe Tacopina objected to this column’s description of Kerik's relationship with a New Jersey company which, Kerik admits, paid for $165,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment.

Tacopina said “there was no way at that time” Kerik would have suspected that the company, Interstate Industrial of Clifton, N.J., might have had mob connections.

Your Humble Servant will now set out a brief time-line of events between 1996 and 2000.

October 1996. Interstate buys a Staten Island debris transfer station from Eddie Garafola, brother-in-law of Sammy [The Bull] Gravano. A transfer station is where debris is stored before being transferred to another facility — in this case, the Fresh Kills landfill.

Early 1997. Interstate applies for a license with the New Jersey Casino Commission for construction projects at Atlantic City casinos. The commission was formed to keep the mob out of Atlantic City.

April 1997. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement — an arm of the state’s attorney general — begins an investigation of Interstate.

January 1, 1998. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani names Kerik the city’s Corrections Commissioner.

November 1, 1998. Larry Ray is best man at Kerik’s wedding to his current wife Hala. Ray — who has law enforcement contacts and became a federal informant in 1996 after, he says, Garafola put out a contract on his life — pays for $7,000 of the wedding’s cost. Ray is also friends with Interstate’s owner Frank DiTommaso, to whom he introduces Kerik.

November 1998. At Kerik’s recommendation, Interstate hires Ray at $100,000 a year to deal with regulators in New York and New Jersey investigating the company for suspected mob ties.

DiTommaso later tells investigators for the city’s Department of Investigation: “I hired him [Ray] to be a coordinator between my attorneys in New York and my attorneys in New Jersey and our security company. [He was] primarily dealing with issues surrounding the transfer station in Staten Island dealing with the requirements of [New York City’s] Trade Waste Commission and the Gaming Commission in New Jersey.” The Trade Waste Commission was set up by Giuliani to weed out mob-tied carters.

“Basically,” DiTommaso tells DOI, “we were going through the issues that were surrounding the transfer station. Obviously, Garafola is a major topic of conversation and interest to law enforcement.”

Meanwhile, Kerik and DiTommaso become fast friends. “When I was in the city, I’d call him, see if he was in, stop by,” DiTommaso tells DOI.

Interstate also hires Kerik’s brother Donald for $85,000 a year.

December 1998. DiTommaso and Ray attend Kerik’s Corrections Department Christmas party.

January 1999. Interstate replaces its security firm, First Security, which was then run by former NYPD police commissioner Bill Bratton, with COPSTAT, run by James Wood, Kerik’s supervisor as an NYPD detective, according to DiTommaso’s DOI testimony.

April 29, 1999. In an e-mail, later reported by the Daily News, Kerik guides Ray on how to help Interstate deal with the Trade Waste Commission. “Stay on top of Jimmy Wood and push the Security Control issue,” Ray says Kerik wrote. “His notes and records will be helpful with the WTC if need be.”

July 1999. Kerik speaks to Raymond Casey, the Trade Waste Commission’s deputy commissioner for enforcement, about Ray. In his guilty plea to a misdemeanor crime this June, Kerik acknowledged that the meeting occurred in his office. Casey tells The New York Times that Kerik said he “thought Ray was a good, honest person with a security background” who could help the commission alleviate the concerns with Interstate and that Ray was “someone we could work with.”

Summer 1999. Kerik purchases two first-floor apartments at 679 W. 239th St. in Riverdale and begins renovations.

October 1999. DiTommaso sends a letter to the Trade Waste Commission announcing that Donald Kerik has taken over daily operation of the S.I. transfer station. “Don is a fine individual and will continue to provide your agency with full cooperation as we at Interstate Materials [the name Interstate gave to the transfer station] have always done,” he writes.

February 28, 2000. The N.J. Department of Gaming Enforcement files a report with the N.J. Casino Control Commission that lays out relationships between DiTommaso and members and associates of organized crime. The Casino Commission later rejected the report saying that DiTommaso "did not knowingly engage in business transactions with organized crime figures."

March 2, 2000. Larry Ray is indicted in a stock fraud conspiracy with Garafola and 18 others, including members of the Colombo and Bonnano crime families. Ray pleads guilty to conspiracy in federal court.

The city recommends denying Interstate Materials a license to operate the transfer station, concluding that its officers “lack the character, honesty and integrity required.”

June 2000. Frank DiTommaso testifies before DOI about all of the above.

August 20, 2000. Giuliani appoints Kerik police commissioner.


Priorities. Here are two version of the same event. First, from Saturday’s Times: “A Westchester County man was killed and his female companion critically injured in Manhattan last [Friday] night when they were run over by a speeding car that quickly fled, police said.

“The two people, whose names the police did not release, were crossing Ninth Avenue and 28th St. about 8 p.m. when they were hit by a gray late-model Honda or Accura heading southbound on Ninth Avenue, the authorities said.

“The car, which the police said had Florida plates, T062HN, was described as having a missing driver’s side mirror and damage to its windshield. Witnesses said they told the police they saw two men in the front seats, one of whom was bearded and heavy set.”

The second version comes from a reader. He writes:

“At 19:54 hours 08/25/06, while the NYPD has dozens of cops in several units chasing the Critical Mass bicyclists, two pedestrians were mowed down in the 10th Precinct by a gray Accura near West 28th St and 9th Ave. The driver left the scene of the collision, with a damaged windshield and damaged side-view mirror....

“But it was not until 21:17 hours that the NYPD began diverting units from the bicycle chase. After they were finished with the latest round of giving tickets to cyclists for minor violations like not having a headlight or bell, some of the units were told to start looking for the hit-and-run vehicle.”

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt