Gambino associate pleads guilty in ‘pants on fire’ torching of businessman’s Mercedes

Larry McShane, New York Daily News

Mobster, mobster, pants on fire.

Gambino crime family associate Peter Tuccio, 27, pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony extortion for torching the Mercedes-Benz of a Queens businessman who stopped making his annual payoffs to an irate mob captain, federal authorities announced.

The arson didn’t go as planned: Co-conspirator Gino Gabrielli accidentally set himself afire in the December 2015 effort to make their target cough up the cash, authorities said. The victim’s home security video system caught Gabrielli, first seen dousing the year-old car with an accelerant, fleeing the scene with his pants ablaze.

Gabrielli, accompanied by Tuccio, later turned up at Jamaica Hospital for treatment of his burns, authorities said. Tuccio faces a mandatory 10-year jail term at his sentencing, along with a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution, prosecutors said.

“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,” said Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Seth DuChame.

While awaiting his day in court for the extortion case, the baby-faced Tuccio was spotted with reputed Philadelphia boss “Skinny Joey” Merlino during the mob veteran’s recent Manhattan Federal Court prosecution. Merlino served two years after a 2018 plea deal, and was released last year.

The extortion target was reportedly a local pizzeria owner spotted by Tuccio, Gabrielli and a third man while leaving a Howard Beach smoke shop on Dec. 3, 2015. The trio confronted the man, with Tuccio commenting on the 2014 Mercedes before the suspects hatched their plan to burn the luxury car, authorities said.

The car’s owner paid more than $5,000 to the mob capo after the blaze.

Gabrielli pleaded guilty to the arson in August 2016, with co-defendant Jonathan Gurino pleading to an extortion count last year. Both were still awaiting sentencing.