The owner of Ridgewood-based garbage hauling company Bella Cleaning & Carting pleaded guilty to four violations that resulted from his company leaving foul dumpsters on a vacant lot on Summer Street close to a senior citizens’ building on Friday morning at the Paterson Municipal Court.
Ben Raabe, owner of Bella Cleaning & Carting, agreed to pay $5,000 by pleading guilty to four violations. He was cited for a total of 21 violations. 17 of those violations were dismissed, according to officials. He paid $1,250 per violation.
“That sounds like a decent fine,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. “He has to realize he can’t just come here and find places in Paterson to store his stuff. We have to send a message — you can’t do that.”
Raabe’s company has been a headache for city officials for illegally operating in the 4th Ward. He was caught running his business without requisite paperwork from the dead end of Warren Street last year.
“If you’re illegal, we don’t want you,” said community improvement director David Gilmore, who was in the courtroom.
Raabe tried to reduce the fines to just $3,000. His attorney John Chiaia proposed to settle the almost two dozen violations by paying $3,000; however, municipal prosecutor Vincent Stampone rejected the offer firmly holding out a minimum of $5,000.
Stampone reasoned a vastly reduced fine would just encourage Raabe and make him consider the fines just part of the cost of doing business. He also told Chiaia the company’s owner has been uncooperative.
For example, a $15,000 bench warrant had to be issued to force Raabe to appear before a judge this morning. Raabe has difficulty responding to court summonses, said city officials.
Cotton said she received a number of complaints from senior citizens living at the Nathan Barnert Apartments complex across the street from 28 Summer Street, where Raabe’s company left smelly dumpsters. The company is also under investigation from the Passaic County Health Department and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), according to officials.
She said the city is working on revising some of its ordinances to increase the fines on violations to hit violators like Raabe harder.
“We’re looking at increasing fines,” she said. “If you break the law you’re going to get fined.”