NAPLES — After losing his run for Collier County sheriff, Vinny Angiolillo is still running.
This time, the limo driver known for his tuxedo shorts and an infamous elephant ride is running from creditors.
Since October, Angiolillo, who spent more than $25,000 on his campaign last year, has wracked up nearly $300,000 in credit card debt and a mortgage foreclosure, and has been sued five times.
Angiolillo said he accrued the debt defending himself in court after he was arrested in October 2007, a week after announcing his candidacy, on two misdemeanor charges of violating a domestic violence injunction involving a former business partner. The charges eventually were dismissed.
“It has everything to do with the money that I had to spend to defend myself against the criminal nature of this entire case,” Angiolillo said. “I’m talking about me being arrested illegally and having to defend myself in court.”
When he was arrested, his former business partner, known only as Crystal, had an injunction seeking protection against Angiolillo, and he had one against her.
Angiolillo contends his arrest was illegal because a recording Crystal made of him was done illegally, without his consent. He contends his arrest was used as a political wedge to hurt his campaign.
Angiolillo says he spent about $250,000 defending himself in court on the misdemeanor.
But others have sued.
Chase Bank filed two lawsuits against Angiolillo, who lives on Moonlit Court in Crescent Lake Estates in North Naples, and won a $26,073.40 judgment last month to pay off his revolving credit account.
Collier Circuit Judge Cynthia Pivacek signed the judgment April 8 after Angiolillo defaulted and didn’t show up in court. He was sued in January and had last made a $469 payment to Chase Bank in September. The judge’s order says interest will continue at 8 percent yearly until he pays it all off.
Chase sued again on March 31, seeking $28,176.13 plus interest for cash advances, convenience checks and purchases he’d made, according to the lawsuit, which is pending.
On March 18, Angiolillo struck a deal with American Express Bank to pay $100 monthly beginning April 1, increasing to $150 after three months, and $200 after a year until he pays off the $4,397.99 he owes through monthly installments.
Amex had provided his limousine business, Class Act, with a business account and after both sides agreed to the deal, Collier County Judge Janeice Martin dismissed the lawsuit.
In February, the law firm that represented him after his arrest, Lucarelli, Beavin & Quinn PA of Naples, sued him after he failed to pay $4,254.73 in legal bills, with interest, since October. That case also is pending and the firm filed a motion last month to amend the lawsuit, citing thousands of dollars more in legal fees.
“I wouldn’t use him if he was the only attorney left,” Angiolillo said of his former attorney, Domenic Lucarelli.
Lucarelli laughed when he heard that endorsement.
He’d defended Angiolillo in the domestic violence case involving Crystal, a case that Collier County Judge Eugene Turner dropped the day it went to trial.
Angiolillo had wanted his day in court, to clear his name.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” Lucarelli said. “We went to trial and the charges were dropped. The result speaks for itself. That would be like me saying I don’t want to use his limo service because he picks me up in a nice, clean limo and always comes on time.”
In October, after failing to continue sending $1,915.39 in monthly mortgage payments, Angiolillo defaulted on his $252,000 mortgage, according to a foreclosure lawsuit that says he also stopped paying his homeowner association fees for a home at 4573 Chat Court.
Also listed as a defendant in that foreclosure lawsuit is Tom Sepanski, Angiolillo’s business partner at AA Towing.
Multiple Listing Service records show the two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is being advertised as “the lowest priced home” at Longshore Lakes, a North Naples development, after the price dropped from $350,000 to $249,900.
The case is pending, but a recommended order before Pivacek asks that a $264,592.44 judgment be entered, including attorney’s, court and other fees.
Angiolillo did no fundraising during his campaign for sheriff, claiming at the time that he turned down donations so he wouldn’t owe “any politician or any contributor any favors.”
Instead, Angiolillo bankrolled his own campaign, contributing more than $25,000 himself.
In August, he spent $4,000 to ride a 5-ton African elephant down Airport-Pulling Road, in what he called “the biggest Republican political event in history.”
Angiolillo already has filed paperwork to make him a candidate for Collier sheriff again in 2012. When asked if he wished he had done anything differently with his campaign in light of his current financial situation, he replied: “I’m a candidate again for sheriff of Collier County. What does that tell you?”
During his campaign, Angiolillo was the owner or co-owner of four businesses in Collier County -- Class Act Limousine, Class Act Automotive Repair, Class Act Landscaping and AA Auto of Collier County, a towing company.
He said he had to close the landscaping business because he couldn’t compete with other companies that use illegal workers.
Business at Class Act Limousine is down, though he says he is picking up business from people who are afraid to drive through intersections with red-light running cameras. He also says his auto and towing businesses are doing well.
Angiolillo says his financial struggles weren’t caused by the economy.
“It’s directly related to the non-integrity of the sheriff’s department,” he said. “Their investigative staff, the way they conducted their investigation, the State’s Attorney’s Office’s involvement and the political corruption that hurt my businesses and my finances.”
Angiolillo is no stranger to the court system.
Since 1991, when he sued a Naples man for non-payment and won a $1,254.50 judgment in small claims court, he’s filed five lawsuits in Collier County and a federal lawsuit last year seeking $5 million from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
That lawsuit alleges that his arrest in October 2007 — days after he announced his candidacy — was illegal and was an attempt to derail his bid for sheriff. In addition to the five current lawsuits against him, he also was the target of a restraining order by Crystal’s mother, obtained in 2007.
He avoided any action in that case when he filed her death certificate with Collier Circuit Judge Elizabeth Krier, who dismissed the case last year.