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Federal indictment in charity shakedown

By Karen Zautyk | Senior Correspondent

NEWARK –

A Belleville man was indicted by a federal grand jury in Newark last Thursday for allegedly extorting a nonprofit company that collected used clothing from bins in local communities, including Belleville, Kearny and Bloomfield.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said the defendant, Michael Arpaio, 57, also allegedly identified himself as a police officer with a connection to organized crime, but, as the indictment reads, Arpaio “was neither an officer nor employee of any police department in the State of New Jersey or elsewhere.“

Arpaio had been arrested Nov. 8, 2010. Last week, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Esther Salas and was released on a $100,000 bail. He will be expected for an initial appearance and arraignment on the indictment in Newark on a date to be determined, Fishman’s office said.

The nonprofit, based in New York and identified in court documents only as “Company One,” placed clothing-collection bins in New York and northern New Jersey, sold the donated garments and gave the net profits to charity, Fishman’s office said. But the bins reportedly began to disappear last summer.

According to court documents filed in the case: “Beginning in July 2010, after the bins were stolen, Arpaio met an individual from Company One . . . . falsely represented himself as a police officer who had a family member associated with organized crime, [and] told the individual that his permission was needed to place clothing bins in northern New Jersey, which Arpaio referred to as his territory.”

Arpaio also allegedly demanded payment for the stolen bins before they would be returned.

Arpaio reportedly met twice with the company representative, on Sept. 29 and Oct. 29. The meetings were recorded, Fishman‘s office said.

According to the court documents, at the September meeting, Company One’s rep gave Arpaio approximately $1,000 in cash, and “Arpaio stated, among other things, ‘This thousand dollars is gonna return some of your boxes to you and it’s gonna make sure none of your other [expletive]’s gone.’”

At the October meeting, Arpaio allegedly demanded money for the privilege of keeping the collection bins on the property of a Belleville retail store, with which Arpaio actually had no connection.

The defendant allegedly lied that he had paid the store $400 to allow placement of a bin, but when the Company One rep asked to see a receipt, the request reportedly was not received graciously.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the response from Arpaio (who apparently has a way with certain words) was: “You’re lucky I’m on the [expletive] job cause I’d break every bone in your [expletive] body right now. You don’t think I’m capable? I’d break every [expletive] bone in your body.”

The indictment also quotes Arpaio as claiming that his uncle is “connected”: “My uncle used to work for a guy . . . . [who was a] captain in the Genovese crime family but he worked directly for John Gotti. Now you know who John Gotti is, right?”

If convicted on the extortion count, Arpaio faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, for the investigation leading to the indictment.

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