CLEVELAND (AP) — A reputed member of the Gambino crime family and former son-in-law of John Gotti was freed on a personal bond Friday after his arrest earlier this week on charges related to an alleged $3 million scam involving stolen cars and scrap metal.
Carmine "The Bull" Agnello, 55, of Bentleyville, appeared in a Cleveland courtroom Friday wearing an orange jail uniform and orange Crocs, his wrists cuffed behind his back.
Agnello was arrested Wednesday by Cleveland police after an 18-month investigation that authorities said uncovered how he put sand into cars, many of them stolen, to add weight and to increase their scrap value before crushing the vehicles and selling them to a metals processing company. A Cleveland police official said he expects that an investigation will show that fraud exceeded $3 million.
Authorities said Agnello also was involved in doping race horses, but would not provide any details.
His attorneys on Friday protested the fact that prosecutors had set a bond hearing for Agnello when no formal charges had been filed. Attorney Ian Friedman called the hearing "unprecedented" and his detention unlawful.
"He moved to Cleveland to get away from what (the prosecutor) attached to him in New York," Friedman said in court.
An assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor said an arrest warrant signed by another judge details the allegations and that the case would be presented to a grand jury to charge Agnello in an indictment. Those charges, the prosecutor said, include theft and conspiracy.
Two guns and $60,000 in cash were seized during searches of Agnello's upscale home and his southeast Cleveland three scrap yards, the prosecutor said. As a convicted felon, Agnello is not allowed to possess firearms. Friedman said the weapons were a shotgun and .22-caliber rifle.
A deputy Cleveland police chief said Agnello would pay people small amounts, usually less than $50, to bring stolen cars to him. The investigation began after police became puzzled about why more stolen cars weren't being recovered.
The prosecutor asked for a $1 million bond. Agnello's attorneys said their client is not a flight risk, has three small children, a mother who lives with him and a brother who is hospitalized at the Cleveland Clinic. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose set a $100,000 personal bond, ordered Agnello to wear a GPS monitoring device and to stay away from his scrap yards.
Agnello moved to Cleveland after his release from a federal prison in Youngstown in 2008. He married the daughter of a suspected Armenian-American terrorist with whom he served prison time. Agnello was married 17 years to Victoria Gotti, the daughter of the late Gambino crime boss. They divorced in 2002. Victoria Gotti starred in a short-lived reality show with her and Agnello's three sons called "Growing Up Gotti."
Agnello received nine years in prison and was ordered to pay $11 million in restitution in 2001 after pleading guilty to federal charges of racketeering and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. Authorities said Agnello was involved in a scheme to take control of scrap yards in Queens, New York.
This is not the first time Agnello has been arrested in northeast Ohio. He was charged with aggravated menacing in October 2010 after running a stop sign and almost causing an accident at a park near his home in Bentleyville. A police report said that when a Cleveland Metroparks ranger approached his pick-up truck, Agnello became "irate" and questioned why ranger Fayza Panno, who Agnello believed to be Italian, would give him a ticket.
Agnello refused to give Panno information that she asked for. The report said as Panno walked back to her car, Agnello got out of his truck and told the ranger, "You should be killed." Panno called for assistance and Agnello was arrested. He pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge and received a suspended 30-day jail sentence.