Mafia turncoat busted in restaurant schemes
Businessman allegedly defrauded developers
A Mafia turncoat who allegedly orchestrated the failure of Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts restaurants across the country from Hawaii to Florida is in custody after being indicted on federal fraud and money laundering charges.
Arizona businessman Frank Capri used restaurant licensing deals with the country superstars as a lure to defraud developers on construction projects, federal prosecutors said.
Capri’s arrest follows an ongoing investigation by The Arizona Republic that began in 2015. The Republic exposed Capri as an ex- mobster who was given a new identity through the Federal Witness Protection Program and allegedly used it to bilk developers out of millions of dollars.
Prosecutors said Capri enlisted his mother and others to funnel money meant to pay for restaurant construction at malls into their own accounts. They used fraudulent paperwork, fabricated contractors, forged signatures and false notary stamps to convince developers work was progressing on projects when it wasn’t, the indictment said.
The indictment does not mention Capri’s background as a former Mafia soldier named Frank Gioia Jr., a “made man” in the Lucchese crime family.
Part of the deal Gioia made with federal prosecutors when he agreed to turn state’s evidence against the mob included new identities for his father, mother, sister and brother- in- law, court records show.
The Arizona U. S. Attorney’s Office declined to answer questions Friday about Capri’s status in the witness protection program.
Capri pleaded not guilty Feb. 5 before U. S. Magistrate Michelle Burns.
Capri, 52, of Scottsdale, Arizona, faces five counts of wire fraud, nine counts of transactional money laundering and two counts of conspiracy. He was charged along with his mother, Debbie Corvo, 68, and former business partner Chris Burka.
The collapse of Toby Keith restaurants
The Republic’s investigation found Capri’s company, Boomtown Entertainment, built 20 Toby Keith restaurants beginning in 2009 and announced plans to build 20 more that never opened. It closed 19 restaurants in about 18 months beginning in 2013.
Even as restaurants went under, Capri announced plans to open ones that never were built.
By 2017, judges in cities across the country ordered him or his companies to pay at least $ 65 million in civil judgments. It is unclear how many judgments were paid or settled.
Federal prosecutors don’t name Toby Keith or Rascal Flatts restaurants in the indictment, which lists them by the initials TK and RF and refers to them as the “branded restaurants.”
“Despite Capri’s control and ownership of the various businesses, he is not formally listed as the owner on relevant incorporation and trust documentation associated with the businesses,” according to the indictment. “The majority of the businesses are listed in the name of Capri’s mother ... or other nominees with ties to Capri.”
Feds: Fabricated construction records
According to the indictment, Capri directed Boomtown employees in 2011 to fabricate construction records for the Toby Keith restaurants.
Boomtown employees referred to the bogus paperwork as “arts and crafts,” according to the indictment.
“Between March 2012 and November 2014, Boomtown entered into approximately 24 lease agreements that entitled Boomtown to approximately $ 64,802,029.66 in T. I. funds for the construction of the ( Toby Keith) restaurant locations,” federal prosecutors said in the indictment.
Boomtown became insolvent, leading to construction delays at “every project,” prosecutors said. Capri stopped paying rent, taxes and construction and maintenance costs, according to the indictment.
In a letter to the Republic in 2017, Capri denied pocketing development money and described the Keith closures as nothing “other than the product of a business failure.”
Rascal Flatts restaurant ruin
Capri was involved in the financial ruin of 19 Rascal Flatts restaurant projects, the Republic reported in 2019.
Capri’s name does not appear on corporate documents tied to the Rascal Flatts restaurants, but behind the scenes, he oversaw hiring, firing, employee payments, permits, construction schedules and collection of fees.
Secretly recorded audiotapes of Capri’s phone calls provided a vivid picture of his role. In the profanity- laced recordings obtained by the Republic, Capri threatened developers to try to squeeze cash out of the Rascal Flatts projects.
Tawny Costa, Capri’s girlfriend and the mother of two of his children, and Burka were listed as managers on corporation filings for RF Restaurants.
In texts to the Republic, Costa admitted in March to serving as Capri’s front for the Rascal Flatts projects.
Capri and others created fictitious general and subcontractor entities to give the scheme legitimacy and conceal the fraud, the indictment says.
Burka and Costa traded blame for the financial collapse, each telling the Republic in March that the other controlled the business.
Arizona businessman Frank Capri apparently orchestrated the collapse of Rascal Flatts restaurants in cities across the country, including one in Cleveland, according to an investigation by The Arizona Republic.