Franco's alleged mob ties were not part of the case.
They figured prominently, however, in the 1995 prosecution of Philadelphia-South Jersey mob boss John Stanfa. During one secretly taped conversation, Franco's name elicited what became the signature phrase of the Stanfa investigation - ``Goodfellas don't sue goodfellas, goodfellas kill goodfellas.''
In reports and documents filed by federal and state law-enforcement agencies since the 1980s, Franco, 63, has been linked to the Genovese crime family.
Franco, through his lawyer, has denied any ties to the mob. He was not charged in the Stanfa investigation.
The guilty plea, fines and penalties outlined yesterday at a hearing before Superior Court Judge Sybil Moses in Hackensack stem from a 1994 case in which Franco, his sons, his late brother and two businesses they controlled were charged with racketeering. The 31-count indictment alleged that the Francos and their companies defrauded the state and county out of millions of dollars by illegally shipping trash to out-of-state landfills.
After the hearing, Franco was taken to the county jail to begin a 270-day sentence. His lawyer, Michael Critchley, could not be reached for comment, but in the past he has said Franco was a hardworking businessman whose life was ``an American success story, not an organized-crime story.''
As part of the plea agreement, Franco and his sons have been barred from the trash business in New Jersey. His sons, both of whom pleaded guilty to a charge of misconduct by a corporate official, were placed on probation.
Franco's alleged connections to the Genovese crime family have been outlined in reports by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation and the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission.
FBI Agent James T. Maher, a mob expert and head of the bureau's organized-crime unit in Philadelphia, testified in 1995 that Franco was a member of the New York-based Genovese organization.
Franco's name surfaced repeatedly in conversations secretly recorded by the FBI during the Stanfa investigation. Stanfa was subsequently convicted of racketeering and is serving five consecutive life sentences.
The conversations focused in part on a legal dispute between Franco and Camden lawyer Salvatore J. Avena, who were partners in a Philadelphia-based trash company at the time. In 1992, Avena sued Franco in federal court in Philadelphia, alleging that Franco was defrauding the company. Franco countersued.
In the conversations recorded by the FBI, New York mobster Salvatore Profaci, who said he was sent by other mob leaders to settle the issue, tried to persuade Avena to drop the lawsuit, contending that it would bring attention to the mob's involvement in the lucrative trash business.
On the tapes, Profaci described Franco as a Genovese crime-family front in the trash business, though Franco has never been charged with that. Profaci also said that leaders of that organization wanted the lawsuit settled ``in the court of honor'' rather than ``the court of law.''
``By blowing Carmine out of the water, we are destroying their number-one earner in the whole organization,'' Profaci said in one conversation.
In another conversation, after listening to Avena protest that he had a right to file suit in order to protect his financial interests, Profaci responded: ``Goodfellas don't sue goodfellas, goodfellas kill goodfellas.''
Avena and Franco eventually agreed to an out-of-court settlement.