Carmine “Papa Smurf” Franco (born 1935) is a high level associate in the Genovese Crime Family with more than three decades in the garbage business. Franco got his colorful nickname from fellow wise guys who couldn’t help but think of the 1980s mushroom-dwelling cartoon character when they saw him.
For decades Franco has controlled numerous trash carting companies in Philadelphia and New Jersey. He was once a major figure in the New Jersey trash hauling business whose alleged mob ties have long attracted law-enforcement investigators
In 1983, Franco pleaded guilty in New Jersey to misdemeanor charges of carting licensing violations. He was sentenced to six months in prison, and he and his companies were fined $125,000.
In June 24, 1998 Franco was sentenced to nine months in jail after pleading guilty to a corporate-misconduct charge. The sentencing came as part of a plea agreement in which Franco, his sons, his late brother, and two businesses they controlled, admitted to defrauding the state and county out of millions of dollars by illegally shipping trash to out-of-state landfills.
In January 16, 2013 Franco and 30 mobbed up suspects were arrested in a probe of the garbage-hauling industry. The suspects were identified as members of the Gambino, Lucchese and Genovese organized crime families. Franco was identified as the ring leader of the operation.
Franco was accused of continuing to work in waste management despite two prior convictions that led to his ban from the business in New Jersey and the loss of his license in New York City. The Garbage godfather controlled and operated companies fronted by phony owners, using his position to direct local control and operation of waste hauling businesses. The reputed Genovese wise guy also allegedly had his underlings steal garbage containers and hundreds of tons of cardboard from rival garbage companies and resold them for big bucks. Reputed members and associates of the Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese organized-crime families allegedly put aside their differences to run a “property-rights” system in which they divvied up customers and companies under their control.
Franco and other longtime Genovese soldiers, Anthony Pucciarello and Peter Leconte, admitted being part of in a scheme where rival Mafia families banded together to circumvent official efforts to clean up the trash business and used strong-arm tactics to shake down the owners of legitimate companies and secretly assume ownership of their operations. Franco also pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, mail and wire fraud, and interstate transportation of stolen cargo.
In May 15, 2014 Franco accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to a year in jail for being a ringleader of a multifamily organized-crime effort between 2009 and 2012 to control New York and North Jersey’s waste-hauling industry.