FBI Mob file details history of city garbage contract

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113459275331576.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of FBI’, ‘Joseph Zito, Rockford Mafia counsuleri (adviser), leaves the Freeport Post Office in December 1968 after a federal grand jury probe into Mob activities in the Rockford area and northern Illinois.’);

Eye-popping allegations are part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records concerning Joseph Zito, a reputed Rockford Mafia counsuleri, who reportedly had interests in the City of Rockford’s garbage collection and disposal. Zito died of natural causes in 1981.

Included in Zito’s FBI file are allegations of bribery and intimidation during a time when a new garbage contract was being negotiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Also during that time, the city closed the municipally-owned People’s Avenue landfill and began dumping its trash at the privately-owned Pagel Pit, which opened in July 1972.

The dump, which was formerly known as Pagel Pit, received approval from the Winnebago County Board Dec. 8 to expand Winnebago Landfill. The 18.7 million cubic-yard expansion is expected to serve 11 northern Illinois counties between 2010 and 2031.

In 2004, the county also approved spending millions of taxpayer funds on two roads that lead to the landfill. The money will pay for 8 miles of road upgrades on Baxter Road and 5 miles on South Perryville Road.

According to the FBI file, Zito was allegedly part owner of the City of Rockford’s former waste hauler—Rockford Disposal Service Co.

A March 31, 1970, FBI bulletin from Zito’s FBI file reads that a male source “said [redact] for the Rockford Disposal Company and is also [redact] the Greater Rockford Airport Authority.

“He said the site, which was under consideration as a new landfill site to be used for dumping garbage was under control of the airport authority and although unsuitable, in [redact] opinion, as a landfill site was being pushed in the City Council when the Illinois State Health Department advised that it would not be approved by that department as a landfill site.

“[Redact] advised that the City furnished the landfill site for the contractor who has the garbage disposal contact for Rockford, Illinois.

“[Redact] said that in conversation with [redact] they stated no matter which site was selected for the landfill and no matter who the current contractor might be they would ‘have to make their peace with Rockford Disposal Company.’

“He said he asked what was meant by that statement but received no answer.

“He said when he was showing opposition to the airport landfill site, he was approached by [redact] Rockford Disposal Company, in approximately October 1969, was asked, ‘What does it take to get you to leave us alone?’” wrote the unidentified FBI agent.

Less than two months after issuing that memorandum, the FBI issued another bulletin on May 13, 1970. The document concerned alleged “bribery negotiations relative to [the] Cherry Valley Landfill site.”

The bulletin reads: “[A source] states he was told it would cost $100,000 to obtain Rockford City Disposal contract.

“It has been previously reported that sources believe Rockford Disposal Service, Inc., utilizes Joe Zito in quieting labor disputes when Rockford Disposal first obtained the Rockford City contract [in 1956]. …

“Rockford is presently attempting to locate a landfill site which would then be used by Rockford Disposal in performance of its trash removal contract. … The site most likely to be chosen is located in Cherry Valley Township, adjacent to Rockford.”

During a Dec. 1 interview, Dave Johnson, Winnebago County clerk and former long-time Rockford alderman, said he thought the site referred to in Zito’s FBI file was the City of Rockford’s 155-acre composting facility at the northeast corner of South Mulford and Baxter roads.

Johnson raised questions about the city’s garbage contract in 1974, which led to an investigation conducted by the Rockford Police Department.

According to a 1975 Rockford Police Department report, Browning Ferris Industries, the city’s garbage hauler at that time, was also known as Rockford Disposal Service Co.

State records indicate Rockford Disposal changed its name to Laidlaw Waste Systems (Illinois) Inc., on March 25, 1982.

When Zito died in 1981, an FBI surveillance photo shows Zito’s funeral was attended by Chicago Mafia boss Joseph Aiuppa, Joseph Zammuto, head of the Rockford Mob, and Frank J. Buscemi, who took control from Zammuto after his retirement, according to a March 4, 1984, Rockford Register Star article.

From the Dec. 14-20, 2005, issue

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