The never-opened Rascal Flatts location in the Flats, part of Frank Capri's nationwide scheme
Frank Capri, a former mobster turned government witness turned developer who scammed the East Bank of the Flats with Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts-branded restaurants that never opened, was sentenced last week to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and tax evasion.
Capri's scheme, which began in 2011 and continued through 2015 in Cleveland and around the country, involved inflating revenue projections for the planned restaurants to convince developers to hand over tenant improvement funds for the properties. Capri's company would then reduce actual construction costs — including creating fake contractors, acting as their own contractor, creating false documents, submitting fake invoices — to pocket the difference between the developer's outlay and their costs.
Twenty to 40 franchises were sold to developers, but most never opened after lengthy, intentional construction delays. Capri's company (Boomtown) failed to pay taxes, racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liens and faced some $30 million in lawsuits. (That number had climbed to $65 million in judgments by 2017.)
The Feds say 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.
Once he'd taken the developers for all he could with Toby Keith's restaurant, Capri went back to the well after securing another deal to open Rascal Flatts-branded bars and restaurants around the country, deploying a similar scheme, and in many cases, deploying it on the same developers he had just bilked.
Cleveland was one of those cases, as the East Bank announced in 2016 it would be welcoming the Rascal Flatts Bar and Grill.
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 from developers for another batch of restaurants that once again never opened.
The developers of the East Bank of the Flats eventually found out they were dealing with Capri again when a man named Ray Rostho, who owned an Arizona construction company and who was hired by Capri to front the Rascal Flatts project here and in other cities, told them at one point that they really ought to just talk to Frank Capri if they had concerns, because it was his project.
"I said, 'You're going to have to call Frank Capri,'" Roshto told the Arizona Republic
. "He was totally surprised. He shouted out, 'Frank Capri!' Then he said it again: 'Frank Capri.' And I said, 'Yeah.'"
He was indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2020 on 16 charges. He pleaded guilty to two of them last August.