Monday, October 26, 2020

Ex-mobster who scammed country singer Toby Keith indicted for money laundering

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A notorious ex-mobster who swindled both Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts‘ restaurant chains out of millions has been indicted on fraud charges in Arizona.

The Arizona Republic reports that police arrested 52-year-old Frank Capri on Wednesday (Feb. 5). According to the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, a grand jury indicted Capri, his 68-year-old mother, Debbie Corvo, and an unidentified third person on Jan. 28 for 16 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering over an ongoing scheme to defraud investors, contractors and others who were involved in Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill restaurant chain, as well as Rascal Flatts’ RF Restaurants.

A five-year investigation by the Republic revealed that Capri is actually Frank Gioia Jr., a third-generation mobster who turned witness against a number of highly placed mafia members in the late 1990s in exchange for immunity. He was enrolled in the Federal Witness Protection Program and given a new identity along with his mother, father, sister and brother-in-law after admitting to crimes that included drug dealing, gun-running, leg-breaking, arson and even murder. His testimony against more than 70 other mobsters is considered one of the biggest cases in mafia history.

Capri moved to Arizona in the early 2000s and resumed his criminal ways, the Republic alleges, by starting a company called Boomtown Entertainment and using it as a front for fraudulent real estate and restaurant deals. Beginning in 2009, Capri’s company built 20 Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill locations across the U.S., with plans for 20 more. Capri is accused of taking money to develop the locations and simply walking away after being tasked with hiring, firing, employee payments, permits, construction schedules and collection of development fees. Capri allegedly opened the restaurants and then engaged in a pattern of failing to pay sub-contractors, breaking leases and keeping the money for himself. 19 of Toby Keith’s restaurants closed within a year, even as Capri was announcing plans for new locations that never came to fruition.

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Capri then became involved with Rascal Flatts, who announced plans for a chain of restaurants in 2012. Capri allegedly repeated the entire process of defrauding everyone in the chain, using a company that was in his girlfriend’s name that had no public ties to him. Capri accepted advance payments on 20 locations that were in development, but only one restaurant ever opened, and it closed within a year, according to the Republic. The ordeal forced Rascal Flatts to publicly break ties with their own restaurant chain in March of 2019.

“The band terminated the license agreement and is no longer in business with this company or Mr. Capri,” a representative for the trio told the Republic. “Rascal Flatts licensed use of their name, image and logo to the restaurant developer and had nothing to do with the construction or build out plans for these restaurants. The use of the Rascal Flatts name in association with restaurants owned by RF IP, LLC or Frank Capri is no longer authorized.”

Capri’s girlfriend, Tawny Costa, has admitted that her company served as a front for Capri’s activities, and the Republic has obtained audiotapes of profanity-laced conversations Capri had with various developers in which he strong-armed them into handing over more money through threats and intimidation. He and Costa kept that money, according to audiotapes, texts and interviews. His mother was also involved with Boomtown and is facing charges.

Capri is scheduled to face trial on April 7. It’s unclear if Costa has been indicted for her role in his alleged fraudulent scheme.

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Toby Keith declined comment to the Republic. The federal government has refused to comment on the Republic‘s reporting about Capri’s alleged participation in Witness Protection or his true identity.

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