A Lucchese family mobster who flipped and helped send dozens of New York wiseguys to prison has been outed as a fraudster who scammed mall owners and developers out of tens of millions of dollars while in the Witness Protection Program.
According to an extensive investigation by The Arizona Republic, Frank Gioia Junior began a new life in the Witness Protection Program as Frank Capri, living in Arizona where he worked as a real-estate developer and restaurateur. The enterprising former mobster from New York quickly found his groove and negotiated deals to build Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill restaurants throughout the United States.
The money came pouring in. In the late 2000s, Gioia was involved in a court battle with his ex-girlfriend, who accused him of lying about his income. She provided the court with a 2005 tax return in which his reported income was around $900,000 a year. The woman estimated her ex had real-estate assets worth over $15 million.
Whether those numbers are accurate remains to be seen. Especially in light of recent discoveries that show Gioia might’ve gotten a brand-new identity, but probably didn’t lose any of his criminal tendencies that were part of his old identity.
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“[Gioia] is accused of orchestrating the failure of Toby Keith restaurants as part of a scheme to steal money meant for construction,” The Arizona Republic reports. “He or his companies are accused of taking millions in up-front fees in exchange for signing long-term leases that weren’t honored. Developers who did business with [Gioia] accuse him in civil lawsuits of racketeering and fraud.”
The Lucchese turncoat or his companies have been ordered to pay a total of $65 million in court judgments, according to The Arizona Republic. Quite the sum. One can only wonder whether Gioia had been able to pull off such a scam if he had never joined the Witness Protection Program.
What if he had been out on the streets of New York. Out there he was known as the son and grandson of mobsters. He himself was known as a stone-cold gangster willing to murder when his bosses asked. If he had approached a real-estate developer then, as Frank Gioia Junior, a simple check would have kept any smart businessman at arm’s length.
Yet, in Arizona, where he was known as Frank Capri and had no criminal background, or hell, not much of any background to speak of, businessmen were charmed by this fast-talking go-getter. "Because federal prosecutors erased his past, [Gioia's] business associates had no way of knowing he was a confessed murderer, drug dealer, gun runner, extortionist, arsonist and loan shark," The Arizona Republic reported.
Even if they had heard about that other mob kingpin that had been operating in the area. Because at the same time Gioia was conning mall owners out of millions of dollars, former Gambino family underboss “Sammy the Bull” Gravano’s new identity had already been blown. Though he claimed to make an honest living, he was actually one of the state’s biggest ecstasy traffickers.
- Read: Gravano is a free man, but also a poster boy for the dangers of dealing with gangsters
Still, that was Sammy the Bull. The man who helped put away infamous mob don John Gotti. That guy made a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal. The feds wouldn’t just hand those lenient sentences and new identities out to every Mafia killer willing to squeal, right? It’s not like they’d place several of these guys in the same area, no?
It prompted Gangsters Inc. to point out how his story serves as a warning to authorities who make deals with gangsters and that the balance between good and evil may be a bit off. In turn, Gioia’s current legal troubles prompt The Arizona Republic to ask if the public is protected from protected witnesses?
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