NEW YORK -- The New York City Police Department went into the bakery business to get the goods on a group that's been charged with fixing the price of Italian bread in Manhattan and Staten Island.
The group, called the Association of Independent Bakers and Distributors, was indicted last month. Charges include imposing trade restraints on distribution of the bread as well as fixing its price.
No supermarket bakeries were directly affected by the group's alleged activities or by the sting, said Gerald McKelvey, spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. "The indicted group supplies smaller, individual retail bakeries," McKelvey said.
And probably nobody was affected much by competition from a sham bakery set up in Greenwich Village by the City Police Department's Organized Crime Investigation Division last year to gather evidence against the group.
Called Louis Basile's, the fake bakery was manned by undercover detectives, who sold bread both retail and wholesale. The products were brought in from outside the city.
The indicted group attempted to fix both wholesale and retail prices, the District Attorney said in a statement.
"We got the nibble we were looking for," McKelvey said, referring to demands the group allegedly made of the undercover officers who ran Basile's, which has now been closed.
At one point, according to the indictment, members of the price-fixing ring met with one of the officers and made it clear that violence might be inflicted on Basile's Bakery and its employees if Basile's did not agree to the Association's demands.
That, along with other evidence gathered, was key in exposing the ring, McKelvey said. Investigations had begun when one area vendor complained to the DA's office.
In addition to dictating prices, the group demanded that before selling to retailers, Basile's had to clear its plans through the organization, it was said.