A Bay Ridge couple who lost a son in one of the most gripping organized crime dramas of the 1990s were taken into custody last week on charges that they scammed over $33,000 in welfare benefits from the city while owning and maintaining 13 properties throughout the borough and beyond.
Prosecutors alleged that even though they were paying over a half−million dollars in mortgage payments each month on properties they owned through different shell companies they controlled, 65−year−old Carmine Gargano and his wife Rosa, 57, claimed that they were making just over $19,500 a year when they applied for Medicaid benefits from their home at 8311 Ridge Boulevard.
On one application, the Garganos said they were only making $150 a week and met the requirements for city Human Resources Administration (HRA) benefits, officials alleged.
Prosecutors claim that the couple received $33,509 in Medicaid funding between August 2004 and February 2009, but immediately pulled out of the program when prosecutors began investigating their realty business and found that they had allegedly concealed ownership of at least 13 properties.
The couple hid the properties by transferring them to shell companies under the name Vimplex Corp., Court Properties Associates, Ridge Blvd. Realty LTD, Gang Development, and 783 McDonald Avenue Realty Corp, officials alleged.
Each corporation reportedly had one of the Garganos listed as their CEO and they all had their home address listed on business records, officials alleged.
During a press conference on Thursday, Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes said that there was no way the Garganos should have received city Medicaid benefits.
“This is yet another case of welfare fraud where greedy individuals try to scam the government and take money away from people who really need it,” said Hynes as he stood with city Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar. “Hopefully, these arrests will make others think twice before trying to collect welfare benefits to which they are not entitled,” he said.
The Garganos were indicted on welfare fraud and grand larceny charges. If convicted, they could each get up to seven years in prison, prosecutors said.
The couple made headlines in the 1990s when there son, 21−year−old Carmine, Jr., disappeared and was believed killed by the Columbo crime family.
Gargano, an accounting student at Pace University, left his parents’ home that July so he could go jet skiing in Plumb Beach, but never returned home and was not seen again.
Over the decade that followed, FBI informants learned that he may have been a victim of an ongoing mob dispute between Gargano’s cousin and Colombo soldier John Pappa.
In a frantic quest for any information about her child’s disappearance, Gargano’s parents begged former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir to take a new look at the case in 2001. They even wrote Pappa, who is serving two life sentences in prison plus 65 years in a slew of mob related killings, begging him to come clean about their son’s disappearance.
The cold case heated up late last year when an FBI uncovered a mob burial ground in Long Island and believed that Gargano’s body was interred there.