- Flickr Creative Commons / David Shane - https://www.flickr.com/photos/david_shane/29685069628/
- People wait in line outside a Toby Keith I Love This Bar and Grill in Las Vegas.
Frank Capri, a former mobster turned government witness turned developer, who sold a franchises to develop Toby Keith- and Rascal Flatts-branded restaurants in San Antonio and other cities, pleaded guilty last week in Arizona to federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and tax evasion.
Capri's scheme, which began in 2011 and continued through 2015 involved inflating revenue projections for the planned restaurants to convince developers to increase tenant improvement funds for the properties, according to federal authorities.
Among the proposed eateries that never actually served customers was a location of Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill at The Rim in Northwest San Antonio, according to an Arizona Republic report.
As part of the scam alleged by federal authorities, Capri's company would reduce actual construction costs — including creating fake contractors, acting as its own contractor, creating false documents and submitting fake invoices — to pocket the difference between the developer's outlay and its own costs.
Twenty to 40 franchises were sold to developers, but most never opened after intentional construction delays. San Antonio's I Loe This Bar & Grill location, now home to Dallas-based restaurant and live music venue The Rustic, was one such venture.
In the end, Capri's company, called Boomtown, failed to pay taxes, racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liens and faced a total of $65 million in lawsuits by 2017, according to the feds.
Authorities also say that between 2011 and 2015, Capri collected some $12.9 million for Toby Keith restaurants that never sold a thing. Meanwhile, Capri transferred millions from Boomtown's bank account to his personal one, spent at least $2.7 million of the illegal funds on jewelry alone, and underreported his income to the IRS by more than $3 million over the course of three years, they further allege.
Once Capri had taken the developers for all he could with Toby Keith's restaurant, he went back to the well after securing another deal to open Rascal Flatts-branded bars and restaurants around the country, according to the feds. Authorities said he deployed a similar scheme, and in many cases, used it on the same developers he'd just bilked.
Because Capri hid his ties to the new company so well, few were any the wiser, and Capri managed to collect more than $5 million in tenant improvement funds for developers for another batch of restaurants that once again never opened, according to federal allegations.
Capri was indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2020 on 16 charges. He pleaded guilty to two of them last week.
Capri faces up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release after. He'll be sentenced in January 2022.
The original version of this story first appeared in the Cleveland Scene, an affiliated publication.
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