Mob Schemed City Buildings Department

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Here's a new money-making angle from the city's now- vanished building boom:

The city's Department of Buildings somehow managed to hire a pair of alleged Mafia associates as building inspectors, who promptly began soliciting bribes from contractors all over town to ignore violations and speed up approvals. The bribe proceeds were then allegedly shared with a pair of legendary city Mafiosi, including one who was convicted as the main heroin connection for legendary Harlem dope dealer Nicky Barnes.

That's the main highlight from today's big mob racketeering indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau that charges Matthew Madonna, 73, the alleged acting boss of the Lucchese crime family, and his cohort, Joseph DiNapoli, 74, with overseeing a wide range of rackets ranging from gambling and firearms trafficking to the innovative buildings department schemes.

All told, 29 individuals are charged in the case including six former building inspectors. Two of the ex-inspectors -- brothers Carmine Francomano Jr. and Frank Francomano - were hired in 2005 and 2007 respectively, just as city building permits were skyrocketing. According to the indictment, the brothers arranged bribes and kickbacks with the help of their dad, Carmine "Snappy" Francomano Sr., who is also charged.

Morgenthau and Police commissioner Ray Kelly, who also appeared at the press conference, declined to speculate how it happened that the men were hired.

The two year probe included 64 telephone wiretaps and a bug in a restaurant on which city police detectives and investigators picked up conversations dealing with the traditional business of organized crime, such as taking sports bets and lending money at extortionate rates.

But the biggest game appeared to be the city's burgeoning construction business. More than 20 buildings in Manhattan and Bronx are cited in the indictment.

The inspectors are charged with collecting $124,000 in bribes from contractors and building owners looking for a break on costly violations. The biggest bribe was an alleged $44,000 paid by contractor Wayne Schumer to Frank Francomano, a former supervisor in the department's Bronx construction division. An unnamed nightclub owner allegedly shelled out $24,000 to expedite his own buildings department permits.

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