Playing silly games with the telephone rarely has a happy ending. Despite that, a Kansas City, Missouri, man has made a career of phoning in baseless, illegal threats and he’s going to prison because of it.
Manuel Garcia, 70, was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole. If the sentence sounds harsh, that’s because it was enhanced. The calls he made caused a major disruption of government functions and a substantial expenditure of funds from local police departments and water districts in response.
Garcia threatened that he was going to contaminate the public water supplies of Kansas City; St. Louis, Missouri; Wichita, Kansas; and Topeka, Kansas. He admitted making the calls in October 2013 and also confessed that the threats were conveyed in a way that made it reasonable to believe the information.
A law enforcement officer investigating the threats recognized Garcia’s voice from a previous case in which Garcia pleaded guilty to making threats by telephone and placing a hoax explosive device outside the federal courthouse in Kansas City. Garcia was sentenced to 18 months in prison in that prior case.
In response to Garcia’s hoax threat, the Kansas City Police Department increased helicopter surveillance around the water treatment plants in the metropolitan area for a two-week period, set up department snipers in observation posts around the city’s water intake and posted two-person patrol teams 24 hours a day around the city’s water treatment plants. Other measures were taken at other locations in the Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and Topeka areas that were potential targets.
Former Longshoreman Sentenced for Extortion Plot
He was part of a plan to extort Christmas tribute payments from members of Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen’s Association. For his trouble, Salvatore LaGrasso, 58, of Edison, New Jersey, a former longshoreman and supervisor on the New Jersey piers, got a year in jail.
He had previously pleaded guilty. According to documents filed in this case: LaGrasso admitted that he and others conspired to compel tribute payments from ILA union members, who made the payments based on actual and threatened force, violence and fear. The timing of the extortions typically coincided with the receipt by certain ILA members of “Container Royalty Fund” checks, a form of year-end compensation.
Charges are still pending against three defendants in the matter, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 59, of Kenilworth, New Jersey, a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family. Since at least 2005, Depiro has managed the Genovese family’s control over the New Jersey waterfront.