Dan Rattiner's Stories

Garbage: How Dan Stopped Illegal Dumper by Publishing the Man’s Tax Return

A Smithtown man was recently sent to prison for illegal dumping. Years ago, Dan handled a similar problem quite differently.

A man named Anthony Grazio of Smithtown was sentenced to prison last week for messing with waste in this county over the past few years. He’d find locations where trucking companies would be able to illegally dispose of hazardous waste and then make that happen. Some sites were in Calverton, Flanders and Greenport. Now, how do they go about removing and re-disposing of it legally elsewhere?

It reminded me of a story that I ran in the paper about 20 years ago which underscores how times have changed.

I’d gotten a call from the owner of an antique shop on the Montauk Highway in Wainscott. He had a dumpster out back for his business, and about a month earlier he had noticed that some homeowner, apparently a summer person, was loading plastic bags into his car and disposing of them on Sunday evening on his way back to New York. He taped a message to his dumpster asking whoever it was not to do that. But it was still happening.

Did I want to write a story about it?

I initially told him no, but four weeks later he called to say the operation was continuing and he had a present for me. It was a copy of the income tax return of the perpetrator, smeared with catsup and mayonnaise. He’d taken it out of its plastic bag and cleaned it up, and he’d make it available to me.

That, I thought, was a story. I picked up the income tax return. This individual was making a six-figure income working for Bear Stearns, a big Wall Street firm, and he had investment income from other sources, too. In the next issue of Dan’s Papers, I published a photo of the front page of his tax return and wrote a story of where it had been found. I said in my story that this so-and-so—and I mentioned him by name—was disposing of his garbage in this private dumpster without permission, and if this fellow would like to pick up this soiled copy of his income tax return, we’d have it for him at the front desk of the Dan’s Papers office. He never showed, but the leaving off of the garbage stopped.

It seems to me, comparing these two stories, that the appreciation of morals and ethics has changed between then and now, and where shaming was good, it would no longer be something you’d do.

I think today if I did what I did then, this individual WOULD pick up his tax return, but he would also hand me a summons. It would accuse me of impugning his character and inform me he was suing me for several millions of dollars.

Something to think about.

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