Marlene Baranello, of Bellmawr, 77
Frank W. Mowatt, Sr. of Runnemede, age 77

Gambino Crime Family Associate Peter Tuccio Pleads Guilty to Arson in Queens

Defendant Set Fire to Victim’s Car to Induce Protection Payment

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Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, left, and Peter Tuccio walking along in New York City Tuccio has pleaded guilty in an arson case.
(Image courtesy of  New York Daily News)

Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Peter Tuccio pleaded guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Steven L. Tiscione to using fire to commit the felony crime of extortion.  When sentenced, Tuccio faces a mandatory sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, as well as forfeiture, restitution and a fine of up to $250,000.

Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the guilty plea.

“With today’s guilty plea, Tuccio has been convicted of an offense arising from his efforts to extort a local businessman by brazenly chasing him through the streets and then setting his car ablaze,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme. “This Office, together with our partners at the FBI, will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute members and associates of organized crime to eradicate the danger they pose to our community.”  Mr. DuCharme thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, the New York City Police Department and the New York City Fire Department’s Bureau of Fire Investigation for their outstanding work on the case.

In 2015, a businessman who had been extorted by a captain in the Gambino Organized Crime Family (referred to in court filings as “Co-Conspirator 1”) for many years, began avoiding Co-Conspirator 1 in an effort to stop making the $400 annual payment.  On December 3, 2015, Tuccio, co-defendants Jonathan Gurino and Gino Gabrielli, who were charged in a separate indictment, observed the businessman leave a smoke shop in Howard Beach, New York and drive away in his 2014 Mercedes Benz.  The three men then followed the businessman at a high rate of speed through the streets of Queens and confronted him outside a pizzeria, where Tuccio mentioned Co-Conspirator 1 and commented on the businessman’s car.  Tuccio and his co-defendants schemed to set the businessman’s car on fire, sending a message that he had to continue making the extortion payments to Co-Conspirator 1.  Later that night, the businessman heard a loud noise and saw that his car was on fire outside of his residence.  The businessman’s security video system recorded Gabrielli pouring a substance on the car, the car erupting in flames, and Gabrielli running away with his pant leg on fire.  Shortly thereafter, Gabrielli and Tuccio were caught on surveillance video entering Jamaica Hospital. After the arson, the businessman paid more than $5,000 to Co-Conspirator 1. 

In August 2016, Gabrielli pleaded guilty to the arson.  In June 2020, Gurino pleaded guilty to extortionate collection of credit and extortion.  They are awaiting sentencing.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime & Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Nadia E. Moore and Nicholas Moscow are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

PETER TUCCIO
Age:  27
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-610 (S-1) (LDH)

John Marzulli United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323

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