Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s long-shot Republican opponent has labeled the left-wing lawmaker a “crime surge creator”—but in fact, the GOP candidate’s own family have been part of the uptick in illegal activity she has lamented.
A Snopes investigation earlier this year revealed that Tina Forte has a long history of flirting with the political right’s violent fringes: posting photos on social media of herself with the leader of the Proud Boys gang, sharing QAnon-flavored slogans, and even participating in events around Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 rally that culminated in the bloody rampage through the U.S. Capitol. But as a candidate for Congress, Forte has cast herself as a more conventional Republican, playing up her small business-owning background and appealing to fears of increasing crime rates, which she has blamed on bail laws that New York State liberalized after the progressive wave four years ago.
“AOC and her socialist allies have pushed for defunding our police and the disastrous ‘bail reform’ policies which have caused crime to skyrocket in New York,” Forte’s website asserts. “Tina and her husband started with a soda delivery route and went on to build their own beverage distribution company. Now, they’re not only creating jobs but empowering others to create their own businesses.”
Forte revisited these themes in appearances in conservative media shortly after she captured the Republican nomination for the overwhelmingly Democratic seat, which covers sections of Queens and the Bronx.
“I grew up here, I own a business here, I raised my family here. I see the difference,” she said in a Fox News interview in August. “We have the criminals that are being released immediately due to the AOC-supported bail reform.”
She hit nearly identical notes on Newsmax.
“I’ve spoken to plenty of people in the district. I was born there, raised there, my family’s there, I have my businesses here: I know this district. And I know that the crime is out of control,” Forte said, slamming what she described as a pattern of absence and neglect on the part of the incumbent.
But what Forte has failed to mention is that her family’s beverage distribution warehouse was at the center of a federal drug and gun bust in 2019—which culminated in guilty pleas by her husband and son, both of whom are serial offenders.
In a 2020 Facebook post, Forte placed her business at an address on the Bronx’s Stillwell Avenue, and in her financial disclosures to the House Clerk’s office she stated her husband’s income derived from a company incorporated in this same building.
It was this exact location that a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent identified as the site of the crimes of Joseph “Joey Snapple” Galdieri—to whom Forte is married, according to records in suburban Rockland County, where the pair own a home well outside the congressional district’s borders—and their son Joseph Galdieri Jr.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Forte planted the blame squarely on her son, and maintained her husband’s involvement was incidental and inadvertent. She professed ignorance of his criminal activities at the time, and said he lived apart from her and her family.
“One of my three children, Joseph, made some very poor decisions. In 2019 at 25, he committed a nonviolent marijuana offense and possessed a firearm. Joseph paid the price, in fines, attorney fees, and time behind bars,” Forte wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast. “As for my husband, he was unaware of our son’s crimes. He was only roped into the charges because of my son utilizing our business location for a single delivery of marijuana.”
However, this characterization is at odds with the FBI agent’s account of the father and son’s activities, as they recounted the content of wiretapped calls and security footage from inside the beverage hub. In the criminal complaint, the agent described the son arranging the drop-off of $150,000 worth of marijuana over the phone at the same time cameras caught his father pacing directly behind him in the warehouse’s office.
The agent further cited tapes that captured Galdieri Sr. meeting with the co-conspirator who brought a truckload of weed to the distribution center, and handing him a black plastic bag full of cash.
In searching the location, federal agents discovered a semiautomatic pistol with its serial number illegally abraded away, in a drawer that Galdieri Sr. opened and rifled through several times in the security roll.
Because both Galdieris are convicted felons—the younger having faced substance charges across multiple states, and the father having been found guilty of second degree assault—neither could possess a firearm under state or federal law.
Pleading to a single count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, the elder Galdieri received a sentence last fall of time served, plus two years’ probation and a $20,000 forfeiture of his proceeds from the scheme.
Junior, meanwhile, copped to a gun charge and received 18 months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Efforts to get him sprung early this June failed, with the judge noting he “persisted in criminal conduct even while on pretrial release,” by continuing to deal marijuana.
However, Forte told The Daily Beast her son is now free, thanks to his good behavior and volunteer work with elderly inmates.
“As a result of my son’s conduct our lives were turned upside down. My son knows he has no more chances with me,” Forte wrote. “His mistakes better have ended or he will have more to worry about than the police.”
Notably, one point on which Ms. Forte’s webpage relaxes its law-and-order stance is in calling for “expunging the records of non-violent charges for marijuana possession,” given that New York State legalized recreational cannabis use in 2021. However, the state still does not allow unlicensed sale of the drug, and Ms. Forte’s website does not speak to federal gun charges nor to violent offenses like her husband’s 2013 assault rap. Filings by her son’s lawyer state his prior felony conviction in New York involved controlled substances other than marijuana.
“This experience has given me insights to the reforms we desperately need, including decriminalization of marijuana, expungement of marijuana violations, and restoring rights for nonviolent offenders,” Forte wrote in her statement to The Daily Beast.