A third-generation mobster who turned state’s witness in 1999 and entered the Federal Witness Protection Program, only to become the mastermind behind two fraudulent restaurant chains attributed to two prominent country music personalities, has finally been indicted. Frank Capri, previously known as Frank Gioia Jr., was indicted by a federal grand jury on 16 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering on 1/28/20. His mother, 68-year-old Debbie Corvo, as well as a third individual, were also indicted in the counts.
It’s the latest chapter in a hard-to-believe story of a former soldier in New York’s notorious Lucchese crime family who became a prominent Arizona business man and real estate developer after having his shady past cleaned by the Federal government, only to bilk millions from developers, contractors, and property owners by using Toby Keith’s name, and later the name of Rascal Flatts.
The first Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill locations opened in Keith’s home state of Oklahoma in 2005, with locations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and later in Thackerville and Las Vegas, NV. The name was derived from the song “I Love This Bar” from Keith’s 2003 record Shock’n Y’all. Featuring live music and bars shaped like guitars, many of the franchises became fixtures of the local community. Soon there were locations all across the country, with high-profile locations near Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and at the Destiny USA shopping complex in Syracuse, NY, and locations in Ohio, Virginia, California, Minnesota, Florida, Texas, and multiple locations in Arizona among other markets.
But starting in 2014, trouble began brewing with the restaurants. In January 2014, the Dallas, TX location closed abruptly, and with no notification to the employees, vendors, or other local partners. Failure to pay rent was cited as the reason the location was shuttered. Then in March of 2014, the Tucson, AZ location closed without notice due to failure to pay rent. Then Folsom, California closed, Newport News, Virginia at the start of 2015, then Savannah, Oxnard, Syracuse, until like dominoes, 18 franchises were shuttered, all without warning, and all due to failure to pay rent or other outstanding bill issues. Various vendors for the franchises also went unpaid, while multiple locations across the country had leases on I Love This Bar locations that never opened, sometimes fleecing local landlords and developers who offered advances on improvements of the spaces.
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill was operated by a company named Boomtown Entertainment, owned by Frank Capri. Amid the death spiral of closing franchises, Boomtown Entertainment itself shuttered in 2015 with millions of dollars in unpaid rent, taxes, and vendor fees still on the books. Frank Capri owed over $65 million in judgments against him in various courts around the country by late 2017.
However right about the same time the I Love This Bar & Grill enterprise was imploding, Frank Capri was launching a new restaurant chain with Rascal Flatts. The Rascal Flatts Restaurant Group was first announced in August of 2012, but it took until August of 2016 before any solid plans began to surface for an actual location—a 14,000 square foot flagship facility in Phoenix that would include a live entertainment area with sound stage, elevated bar, and eating areas both indoors and outdoors. However the first (and only) Rascal Flatts restaurant was a 3000 square foot location in the Stamford Town Center Mall in Connecticut adjacent to the food court with a small stage in one corner. The location opened in August of 2017—five years after the Rascal Flatts restaurant chain was first announced.
Subsequent Rascal Flatts franchises were scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., Columbus, OH, Pittsburgh, PA, Raleigh, NC, Minneapolis, MN, Long Island, NY, Charlotte, Tampa, Boston and Madison, WI, and Canada. Rascal Flatts Restaurant Group, a company run by Philip Lama and Eric Soe, would oversee the new business venture, along with Rascal Flatts lending their names and ideas to the concept as it moved forward. However the sole location in Connecticut closed in July of 2018—less than a year after it opened. In mid January of 2019, Rascal Flatts said in a statement,
You may have noticed our name was associated with a restaurant project. We licensed the use of our name to a restaurant developer a few years back, but never participated in the ownership or development in any way. We were not responsible for any obligations of the developer, RF IP, LLC.
Because we know you have been looking forward to enjoying our themed restaurants, we wanted to let you know that this project is no longer happening. We ended the agreement and do not have a business relationship with the developer. They are not authorized to use our name in any way. We wanted to be transparent to our fans in case there was any confusion related to our involvement in the restaurants. Thank y’all so much for the continued support.
Toby Keith has never addressed the situation publicly. However there are still multiple locations of the Toby Keith I Love This Bar and Grill restaurant open in Oklahoma and Texas. These locations are part of the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, which by all accounts is a reputable business.
According to mafia experts, Frank Capri, or Frank Gioia Jr., is arguably the most important mafia turncoat in history, with his work with law enforcement resulting in over 70 convictions of major mob figures, and the resolution of several unsolved murders. Capri claims there was no wrongdoing with his business, and that the restaurants were simply a failed business venture. However the new indictments charge Capri used fraudulent paperwork, fictitious contractors, forged signatures, and fake notary stamps to scam developers into believing work was progressing on restaurant locations when no such work was happening.