MARCO ISLAND — Before he finally cleared his name, Joey Oliverio endured the nightmare of a false arrest, the purgatory of incarceration and the hell of character assassination by ill-informed and mean-spirited bloggers.
At Marco Island City Council’s last meeting, Oliverio finally tasted the sweet nectar of apology. Chief Don Hunter acknowledged fault before council saying Oliverio was innocent of wrong-doing, and Marco Island police acted inappropriately in the situation.
On Friday, Hunter went to Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House, a popular Marco Island restaurant on North Collier Boulevard owned by Oliverio, and gave his family a video of the apology. Oliverio embraced Hunter, but the ordeal is something he will never forget.
The arrest on April 21, 2011, shocked the Oliverio family and brought to light a series of events that read like a “CSI: Marco Island” script. Oliverio accepted a 2005 Bentley convertible as collateral for a $56,000 debt owed to him by George Perkins of Chicago. Oliverio leased a Marco Island property to Perkins with an option to buy.
Perkins fell on hard times, Oliverio said, and paid for the lease with a bad check. Perkins convinced Oliverio not to prosecute by offering the high-end car as collateral until the money could be paid back.
Perkins, who returned to Chicago, reported the car stolen to his insurance company. The company immediately put out a stolen vehicle report to police. Later, a surveillance camera in the area where the thief was reported showed the car was never there, and Perkins recanted his story.
The insurance company never pulled the “hot sheet” from police records, Oliverio said, and that’s how things started going terribly wrong. Oliverio was arrested Holy Thursday evening, 2011, for grand theft of a vehicle. The arresting officer was Sgt. Tige Thompson of the Marco Island Police.
The arrest was particularly vicious, Oliverio contended.
“I was surrounded by six cops and pulled out of the car,” he remembered. “They made me kneel down in the middle of Collier Boulevard with guns pulled while they handcuffed me.”
Oliverio said he already had reported his possession of the car to Marco Island police and explained that it was in his garage to cover a debt. While handcuffed, Oliverio pleaded with police to check the record. His wife, Doreen, was seated in another car behind the scene watching helplessly. His son, Santo, also was on scene but was told to stand back or he would be arrested, too.
Oliverio was transported to county jail where he was processed and ordered into an orange jumpsuit. Through the night, Doreen and Santo Oliverio worked to secure his bail and his release. After the arrest, Joey Oliverio was never charged.
“It was so embarrassing,” Joey Oliverio said. “Customers started looking at me in a funny way. On Easter Sunday, I saw customers that ate with me three times a week, and they turned their heads and looked away. Then, they stopped coming in.”
Bloggers labeled him the head of an international classic car theft ring, he said.
Oliverio spoke to Police Chief Thom Carr, Marco Island’s former chief who was active at the time of the arrest, and told him Thompson’s behavior was egregious. Oliverio asked that Thompson be removed from the police force. After an internal affairs investigation, Thompson was demoted from sergeant to patrol officer.
“Chief Hunter and City Manager Jim Riviere took extraordinary steps to make sure a wrong was corrected,” Oliverio said on Friday. “It should make people on this island very proud to know they are in charge.”