CLEVELAND (AP) — A reputed member of New York's Gambino crime family and former son-in-law of John Gotti pleaded not guilty Friday in what authorities say is a multimillion- dollar scam involving scrap metal and stolen cars.
Carmine "The Bull" Agnello, of Bentleyville, entered the pleas in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to charges including conspiracy, theft and money laundering.
Authorities said an 18-month investigation uncovered how Agnello 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 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.
Prosecutors on Friday had sought to have his bond increased to at least $1 million, but the judge kept it at $100,000. Agnello, 56, has been free on bond since two days after his arrest in mid-July.
Agnello's attorney said after court Friday that the $1 million bond request was preposterous.
"We're grateful that the judge saw today that the state's position was absurd and continued him on the same bond," attorney Roger Synenberg said. "His is a legitimate business."
Prosecutors said the higher bond was needed because of the serious charges. They also said Agnello is a flight risk with a history of violence, racketeering, witness intimidation and jury tampering while a member of the Gambino crime family.
Agnello was married 17 years to reality TV star Victoria Gotti, the daughter of the late 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."
Synenberg said Agnello pleaded guilty 15 years ago to federal charges of racketeering and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service but served his sentence and started over. The prosecution disputed that.
"The defense portrayal of Carmine Agnello as a good, hardworking family man is misleading," Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement. "He's a family man all right — a Gambino family man."