I'm Robert Anglen, an investigative reporter with the Arizona Republic and the USA TODAY Network. I've exposed abuses within the probate court, questionable charities tied to a worldwide televangelism ministry and multiple white-collar fraud schemes.

My latest story delves into the life of Frank Gioia Jr., also known as Frank Capri. Gioia was a "made man" in the New York Mafia whose criminal history was erased after he cooperated with authorities with testimony against more than 70 mobsters.

He was given a new identity as Frank Capri, which helped him become a Phoenix-area businessman who headed a chain of Toby Keith restaurants that failed amid allegations of fraud.

Now, his fingerprints are on another nationwide restaurant collapse with a new country music star: Rascal Flatts.

EDIT: I have to get going. Check out the whole story here: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/local/arizona-investigations/2019/03/13/mafia-frank-capri-behind-rascal-flatts-toby-keith-restaurant-failures/2337607002/

Follow me on Twitter @robertanglen

If you have any more questions, post them! I'll be checking back through the week to follow up! Thanks.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/9er5fsyktbm21.jpg

Comments: 328 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

juicelee777325 karma

Just learning about this from the ama. Has this guy ever had a successful business? Why do these musical acts keep trusting him? Are they getting in bed with him another way? Like real estate or something else?

ArizonaRepublic311 karma

My investigations found that almost every business Capri has been involved in ended the same way; lawsuits, allegations of broken leases, claims of walking away with development money. Toby Keith won't talk about how he became involved with Capri. I've been able to document how Rascal Flatts got tied up in the latest scheme.

juicelee77789 karma

A follow up question: have you found a common link like the person or entity that was able to secure the licensing deal? If it's not Capri himself it's a third party

ArizonaRepublic216 karma

I have been able to track how Rascal Flatts got involved through people originally involved in Boomtown (the company Capri used for the TK restaurants).

Go with me on this. It's kinda complex. It involves lawsuits filed by Capri against another developer who used to work for him (at the Toby Keith's) named Phil Lama.

Lama quit to open the first RF restaurants in 2012. Capri sued him for stealing trade secrets. Capri lost, but RF backed out of the deal.

Lama had a partner at the time named Chris Burka.

Burka signed a deal with RF for naming rights after they dumped Lama.

Burka ended up taking the concept to Capri. Burka fronted the RF developments with Capri's longtime girlfriend, Tawny Costa.

Capri kept his name off public documents, while running it through Burka and Costa.

Whew?

juicelee77775 karma

Whew indeed.

That's a crafty and nasty sumbitch

ArizonaRepublic180 karma

Sometimes I need to break out hand puppets to keep it all straight

TheCosmicJester51 karma

You may have the next great viral video series.

Hu5k3r23 karma

or podcast series

ArizonaRepublic38 karma

I'm working on it...

ArizonaRepublic13 karma

Sounds like it could be fun.

BASK_IN_MY_FART14 karma

You should get the 12 News anchors to do the newscast with puppets lol.

That story reminds me of The White Chocolate Grill and their spat with the Houston's restaurant, but you know, not with OG mobsters.

ArizonaRepublic8 karma

This guy is the real deal

gogojack21 karma

Interesting. I remember when Toby opened a New Mexican restaurant in AZ back in the 90s (Hatch Valley Chile Company) and the food was actually pretty good. He hired a staff from a southern New Mexico place and for whatever reason it just didn't take off.

If I remember correctly, Toby was much more involved in that place (they opened a second location in Gilbert that didn't last) but as the story says he basically just lent his name and fame to I Love This Bar & Grill.

Didn't know Rascal Flatts was taken in by the same person. That's too bad. They're good guys.

ArizonaRepublic27 karma

Rascal Flatts would have little way of knowing Capri was involved. he kept his name off the books and let his longtime girlfriend (Costa) and a business associate (Burka) front the companies. They had a licensing agreement with Burka to develop the restaurants.

BonGonjador13 karma

Do you get the feeling that this is the model that Capri, Burka, Lama and Costa use? Seems like it could be a convenient template, especially if there's some kind of incentive for the celebs involved not to discuss what happened...

ArizonaRepublic16 karma

It is definitely a model Capri has used. Even before the country music restaurants, he was accused of using the same scheme for an indoor playground at malls. Same result. Up-front cash, broken leases, lawsuits.

Terrible_Firefighter-2 karma

Capri's in line to become the next president then!

ArizonaRepublic25 karma

Uh, no...

yerger80 karma

Do you fear of any retaliation for exposing the story?

ArizonaRepublic152 karma

Hi. Fear is a funny thing. I've been writing about Capri's exploits for three years. I take precautions but I don't want to be paranoid. Truthfully, the people who are most likely to come after you are the ones you least expect; the story you never considered.

cancercures43 karma

just like the movie Layercake!

Pnatethegreat8727 karma

Amazing movie

ArizonaRepublic26 karma

I liked that flick!

hurtsdonut_66 karma

What's his angle here? How's he making money off of this?

ArizonaRepublic151 karma

Great question. It works like this: Capri approaches developers about building restaurants at malls across America. Mall owners are desperate for anchor tenants and big name celebrity-themed joints are like catnip. All day and night and traffic, diners, drinkers, dancing.

That's the hook. Now Capri asks for upfront cash to pay for construction. It can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. In exchange, he offers to pay a long-term lease. Ie; monthly lease of 10K a month for 10 years.

In the case of TK or RF, the restaurants get partially built, or only open for a short time, and Capri walks away with the up front cash. That's how it work. Only thing developers can do is sue.

AngelNMendoza60 karma

By outing someone who is in witness protection, do you feel any sort of responsibility over doing so? What sort of repercussions could come about doing that?

ArizonaRepublic178 karma

Get asked this one a lot. Editors debated that topic for months before publication. And the Department of Justice tried to discourage us from writing the story based on those grounds (although federal authorities refuse to acknowledge whether Capri is or was in the Federal Witness Protection Program).

But reporters don't work for the government. My job is to inform the public--and protect the public. I had to weigh the ongoing damage Capri was doing to workers (plumbers, electricians, framers, concrete guys, etc.) and developers against the potential violence to Capri.

There was no easy answer. The decision was not made capriciously. But we decided the public had an absolute right to know who was behind these developments.

And here's the rub: It's still going on.

Faelwolf129 karma

I would say it's not on you or your publishers. Once Capri started committing fraud, he violated his protection agreement, and is fair game.

Vio_57 karma

Sammy the Bull also started committing crimes again in witness protection. It negated his protection status, and led to a lot of other stuff happening.

ArizonaRepublic33 karma

Yeah. Prison for Sammy. He got out just before I broke the stories about Capri in 2017.

ArizonaRepublic36 karma

To be upfront. It is unclear if Capri is still enrolled in WITSEC. There is no rule saying you have to stay enrolled. What's more, a witness can walk away from the program anytime. They can also be kicked out for not following the rules. My best guess: Capri is no longer in the program. But that's just a guess. Once someone leaves, there's no monitoring system to track former witnesses (criminals). Not even top law enforcement officers are told that a witnesses is living in their jurisdiction. There have been some heinous crimes committed by people enrolled in the program.

Probably_cool39 karma

Capriciously. Ha.

ArizonaRepublic17 karma

Nice catch!

Unexpected_Megafauna20 karma

Well I for one thank you for your work.

It's not easy but someone has to do it, and I'm glad it's someone who is going a good job

ArizonaRepublic25 karma

Thank you. I have a great team of editors, producers and photographers who back me up. The paper is committed to investigative journalism. Which seems like a good time to encourage people to subscribe. It takes readers to really fuel this work.

Bluest_waters11 karma

I mean the guy is clearly still a criminal, now he just has the tacit backing of the US gov

How the fuck is that okay? Fuck all these guys

ArizonaRepublic19 karma

Well. The feds appear to be taking notice now. At least that's my read of a court case involving Capri's former lawyer, who just plead guilty to embezzling money from Boomtown. He cut a nice cooperative deal with an agreement not to prosecute. We'll see how it plays out.

sleepydon59 karma

Do you know how u/brennan85259 is connected to this story? He doesn't seem to be fan of your work.

ArizonaRepublic50 karma

I don't know him personally. Haters will hate. And there's a bunch of people who really don't like me. Shocking, I know.

ArizonaRepublic3 karma

I've read the posts and can say it's pretty obvious he didn't read the series; either the new ones or the 2017 series about Capri's background and the Witness Protection Program, or the 2016 stories about Toby Keith failures. This story evolved over three years. In addition to several false statements about my work (I never said Capri or anyone stole $65 million; lawsuits are not "all settled"), he also ignores the audio recordings indicating Capri's control over the Rascal Flatts projects while keeping his name off public documents.

I will give him this: If you take away the suspicious restaurant failures, the claims of fraud, theft, the tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits, capri's pastas a Mafia soldier, the WITSEC issues and the fronts running Rascal Flatts ... there probably wouldn't be a story.

cwleveck45 karma

I have information about a corrupt state politician who passed a law directly benefiting his business that has allowed an entire industry in my state to systematically rip people off to the tune of millions of dollars. It's the perfect crime. The cops aren't in on it but the system is perfectly designed to prevent their involvement leaving the average person with no recourse so they HAVE to bend over and take it up the tailpipe. So how does one go about giving you the details to see if you are interested in helping tear down this evil organization?

ArizonaRepublic42 karma

One only need call. But keep in mind, I am based in Arizona. If the story looks as if it could have a large impact nationwide or might affect a specifics tate/ region, I am part of the USA Today network. I can pass it along.

mtmm18-29 karma

Snitch

ArizonaRepublic13 karma

I know you're joking. But I've avoided using the word "snitch" or "rat" in these stories. I know that's what the mob calls it. But when Capri flipped (after withholding a lot of detail from the feds in a violation of his deal) he helped solve six murders, including the shooting of a cop. His cooperation also helped put 70 mobsters behind bars.

Joanhou41 karma

Did you come across Houston in your research? A TK was built (unsure if completed) but a dispute over unpaid contractors. Don’t believe it ever opened.

ArizonaRepublic84 karma

Houston was not involved in Rascal Flatts development. But a developer and contractors got hosed pretty good on a Toby Keith restaurant that never opened in Houston. West Oaks Mall locked out Boomtown and sued for failure to pay rent. In 2015, West Oaks filed for summary judgment and won a $1.4 million judgment. Contractors also sued, claiming they were owed more than $150,000. Among them was Parkway Electric (sued and won: $99,595.67) and My Tech Texas: (sued and won $12,929).

The problem with winning a lawsuit is no guarantee that you will ever see money. Most of the suits against Capri and his companies are still unpaid, according to court records. Judges have ordered to pay at least $65 million in judgments. Dont hold your breath.

There were four Toby Keith restaurants planned in Texas.

geminiloveca30 karma

There was a TK here in Oxnard, CA too. I wondered why it closed when it always seemed to be busy.

ArizonaRepublic21 karma

Oxnard was another Boomtown special. There was another one in Rancho Cucamonga that went belly up. A third TK restaurant was planned in Anaheim.

monkeydeluxe13 karma

$65 million

Makes me wonder how much of that Capri pocketed and how much went to mob connections for protection.

ArizonaRepublic11 karma

hmmmmmm

KingVape7 karma

He snitched on the mob and went into witness protection, so he probably is no longer connected to them

ArizonaRepublic32 karma

That's how it is supposed to work. That's not always what happens.

drmyk31 karma

You do know what happened to the last AZ republic reporter that was investigating someone associated with the mob in AZ. Do you have someone starting your car for you in the morning?

Also, screw Kemper Marley

ArizonaRepublic43 karma

Republic Audience Director here: We're actually working on a really great project about that reporter (Don Bolles). Will come out later this year. fingers crossed

drmyk20 karma

I hope you tell his story well. The dead can't try to buy their way back to civil society like their alleged killers can.

ArizonaRepublic25 karma

We will do right by Bolles.

ArizonaRepublic35 karma

That case haunts the newsroom. And I am keenly aware of what happened to Don Bolles. I'll admit that I don't let my kids start my car--and I make them wait in the house each morning while I do. But there hasn't been any direct threat in this case.

Jestikon30 karma

Does any of this tie back to federal relocation of Sammy The Bull or was there already a strong mob presence in AZ and the south west (excluding NV) ?

ArizonaRepublic58 karma

Sammy the Bull is a different case, but there are a lot of similarities. Arizona doesn't have a strong mob presence per se. Arizona has always been neutral territory, or an open territory for the mob. In other words, one crime family doesn't control it. Where it gets interesting is WITSEC. Authorities who flip and relocate mobsters need to send them someplace where they aren't likely to run into past associates. So western states are attractive to authorities who need to relocate East Coast mobsters (Not Vegas)!

ArizonaRepublic58 karma

Sammy the Bull admitted he was in WITSEC and was later arrested for running an ecstasy ring. Capri has never admitted he was involved in the mob or that he is a witness. I had to prove he true identity through months of research and interviews with mob lawyers, state and federal prosecutors, mafia historians, his past and present associates.

Jestikon25 karma

Thanks for your work, I know it’s dangerous (I’m from NYC).

ArizonaRepublic30 karma

Hey, thanks!

Italy32123 karma

I do not understand how Toby Keith or Rascall Flatts would be a selling point for a restaurant.

This seems to be the grift; go to some middling celebrity, perhaps a bit past their prime, brightest days in the sun behind them, tell them you're an expert on (something) and that you want to use their name on some venture... and maybe invest a little money, too? I mean, if you don't have the faith to invest in your own namesake...

Ka-ching.

ArizonaRepublic30 karma

Or you could help your kids get into an ivy-league school.

Madisux20 karma

Before my question-my father manages another restaurant in the same plaza the rascal flatts restaurant was supposed to go into in Gainesville. Everyone was wondering what had happened to it. Thank you for doing this investigation! This new plaza is a huge undertaking in Gainesville and they are putting millions into creating it. My question is-how does the backing out process go? Will the plaza sue for unpaid rent, contractors, other fees? Or does the plaza eat the costs? If they’ve already put money into building, advertising, etc. will frank Capri pay that back?

Also, since his identity was changed, how was he able to get this job with no references/real resume?

ArizonaRepublic18 karma

Yes. The mall in Gainesville sued for eviction. That got them the property back and allows them to lease it to another tenant. They could sue for fees and back rent and money that was paid out. But even if mall owners win lawsuits, the chances of recovery (based on what happened with TK) are going to be slim.

Vio-lex15 karma

Hi Robert!

I’m a student journalist at my community college’s local newspaper in AZ and am planning to transfer to ASU to major in journalism. Probably investigative.

How can I do investigative journalism at my college’s newspaper, be it a small publication at my local community college or at ASU’s State Press? When I read investigative pieces I can’t imagine being able to get traction and resources like you would be able to at AZCentral. Is it as herculean as something like The Insider or All the President’s Men make it seem?

ArizonaRepublic35 karma

I say treat your J-school experience like a real job. I'll give you an example. Many years ago, as a student in San Francisco, I followed a trail of microfiche to a dumpster. I retrieved the microfiche. They contained the names, records, grades, addresses, SS#, and academic history of every student who'd attended the school. Turns out the admin improperly was destroying the records. Instead of thanking me, the school attempted to criminally prosecute me for theft and a lot of other charges. They also talked expulsion. They backed down after we began writing stories. The records also showed that some student leaders weren't qualified for their elected and paid positions. Ultimately, on advice of counsel (for the student newspaper) we returned the records.

wookyoftheyear2 karma

Wow. What school? I'm in SF, I'd love to read that story if it's available.

ArizonaRepublic2 karma

1993-ish San Francisco State. If you find a copy, let me know.

LocalSharkSalesman3 karma

This is a great question. Hope it gets a good answer

ArizonaRepublic23 karma

Gave it my best--true-shot. Also in college, a fellow reporter tracked the gun used in a campus murder-suicide. We broke stories about where the gun came from that local papers picked up. Don't treat the college paper as if it is a college paper. treat it like it is the real deal.

AtomicFlx9 karma

How much of this is bad business or fraud, and how much of this is just the unpopularity of themed restaurants? Just like the canceled David Copperfield restaurant in NY, theme restaurants just are not as popular as they were in the 90's. When was the last time you saw a hard rock cafe shirt? Its bad food, with cheap decor and high prices, so I would expect failures of this type especially given the failure rate of food service in general.

ArizonaRepublic2 karma

It's hard to arbitrate what constitutes fraud. And I think that is something Capri depended on in these restaurant failures. He has described these as nothing more than business failings. Authorities have an abysmal track record of investigating white-collar fraud. They would much rather write these cases off as civil disputes. But look closer. Restaurants that open and close within months. Closing restaurants while cutting deals to open new ones that never get built. Keeping your name off businesses and using fronts as more businesses collapse. A repeated pattern of broken leases and missing development money. It;s hard to argue poor business model after a while. Developers contend Capri set these restaurants up to fail.

neigborsinhell8 karma

Have you gotten any legitimate threats against you or your family, and has anyone attempted to follow up on a threat?

edit: spelling

ArizonaRepublic31 karma

Not in this case. It has happened in the past. The weirdest was a fundamentalist scam artist who was targeting churches. He filewd a whacky claim using militia theory and (I swear to God) admiralty law (yeah, like the high seas. He claimed I owed him $40 million. It was all pretty funny until he filed a Chapter 7 in my name in bankruptcy court claiming to be my creditor. My mortgage company initiated foreclosure action as a result. A judge threw it out of court. My stories helped send him to prison. he got out a few years back. he hasn't stopped by to say hi.

DiogenesCane8 karma

When will you return Quetzalcoatl to his glorious throne in Azcentral?

ArizonaRepublic5 karma

I'll work on that

_coffee_5 karma

So, would you say that Mr. Capri wasn't in Tune with the local communities, and that that was a reason for the Sharp decline of clientele leading to the venture falling Flat?

ArizonaRepublic6 karma

I'm not sure what that means. My understanding is the restaurants that opened did well. But too many closed soon aftr opening. And 20 never opened at all.

_coffee_8 karma

Puns. He opened music themed restaurants and was drummed out of business...

ArizonaRepublic11 karma

Life is a Highway

brennan85259-14 karma

From what I understand The rascal Flatts restaurant concept wasn’t that good. They opened up one I believe in Connecticut or somewhere in that vicinity and it just wasn’t popular. The band really isn’t that Popular anymore. They should’ve gone with somebody like Jason Aldean.

ArizonaRepublic7 karma

That was RF Restaurants' first and only one. The band sold licensing rights and definitely has a following. Fans are called Flattheads, and they seem pretty loyal. The problem likely wasn't the concept. It was the execution. All appearances indicate RF Restaurants didn't build them to stay in business.

elmonoenano5 karma

Do you know if he was involved in Kenny Roger's Roasters?

ArizonaRepublic3 karma

I have no evidence to suggest it

internofdoom333 karma

My city (Cincinnati) got taken by the same con job for a TK at a major development site. Boomtown sounds dead, so what is this guy's next con?

ArizonaRepublic9 karma

I've written about what happened at the Banks. It was part of Capri's Boomtown. I used to work at The Enquirer.

thekillercook1 karma

What about the p.g.s and contracts national food distributors use to ensure they get theirs? Did Sysco, PFG, US, maines get their pie?

ArizonaRepublic2 karma

Not always. In the Toby Keith cases, food distributors also sued. It's too early to tell on Rascal Flatts, but only one restaurant opened.

PotatoPototo1231 karma

Wanna play rock paper scissors?

ArizonaRepublic7 karma

What's the prize?

SatanMaster-11 karma

Is it a right wing traitor lunatic musician goal to open a restaurant?

Tofinochris8 karma

Toby Keith? You know his persona is a character, right? Dude spoke well of Obama, was on record as not supporting the Iraq War... Hell he pretty much exposed himself as a character when he was on the Colbert Christmas special doing a song that was basically a winking version of "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue". If you're going to tag musicians as right-wing nuts he shouldn't even be on your radar unless it annoys you that his music fires up the ol' jingoism, which is a solid argument really.

ArizonaRepublic6 karma

Toby Keith is likely a victim in this as much as anyone else. No matter how much he made from the naming rights, his brand is still tainted by lawsuits. There is another restaurant chain in Oklahoma that continues to run successful Toby Keith restaurants.

ArizonaRepublic5 karma

I got nothing. These restaurants are extremely popular. And the ones that stay open do well. It's not a whole lot different than the Blues Brothers, Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood.