Defense mysteriously veers from Soave's controversial past

Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer was poised to probe Tony Soave’s controversial past, including his former ties to known mob associates, when prosecutors objected Thursday.

Michael Rataj

Following a brief sidebar, Ferguson lawyer Michael Rataj veered away from talking about Soave’s background, including an arrest that was expunged from his record. It is unclear if U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds barred Ferguson’s lawyer from exploring that line of questioning.

The News covered Soave’s background in a 1999 story, the remnants of which can be found here.

From the report:

Soave, who has made a fortune in the garbage hauling business, was arrested along with 20 other men in 1971 on illegal gambling charges but the case was dismissed because prosecutors did not get proper signatures on a federal wiretap order. The arrest was expunged from his record in 1990.

Perhaps more troubling are his documented contacts with alleged organized crime figures in Detroit and New Jersey.

Those contacts were spelled out in a New Jersey State Police report on Soave and his company, compiled in 1991 when he applied for a trash-hauling license there. New Jersey police cited several social and business deals with mob figures.

Soave denied any wrongdoing, saying payments by his company to companies linked to the mob were not his responsibility.

“I don’t choose the contractors on the job. That is not my role. I am the owner,” Soave told the News.

He said his contacts with a New Jersey mob associate, Joseph Riggi, were social and he did not know Riggi was under investigation. Riggi, a former union business manager, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for labor racketeering and extortion.

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong … I’ve been investigated over and over and there’s been nothing,” Soave said.

Robert Snell
Robert Snell is the Detroit News federal courts reporter. He can be reached at or (313) 222-2028.