New York City has become a hotbed for viral animal escapes. There's been no llama drama yet, but there were cows in Queens. And on Staten Island yesterday, according to DNAInfo, two escaped ponies ran through the icy streets, causing havoc until a police officer lassoed them with a tow strap he had in his truck.
Now it turns out the ponies' owner has a checkered past involving extortion, the Gambino crime family, and Steven Seagal. Julius Nasso, a movie producer living on Staten Island's Wakefield Place, bought the ponies-Blondie, 9, and Jewels, 5-for his daughter. Yesterday, he was graciously thanking police officers for their work and apologizing for any danger the pony runaways caused. But a few years back, he was producing martial arts movies, including some starring Seagal. The two were business partners for a while, The Daily News reported, until Nasso sued Seagal for $60 million in 2002, alleging that the star backed out of a number of blockbuster movie deals. Seagal said he quit because the violent films ran contrary to his Buddhist belief.
Either way, Nasso didn't handle the matter in strictly legal terms. Seagal would later testify that he was shaken down by enforcers from the Gambino family in the back of a Brooklyn steakhouse. One of the men-a reputed Gambino capo-told Seagal "he better go back to working with Nasso or he'd be sorry" according to The Daily News. The men were later caught laughing about the whole business on an FBI wiretap, and Nasso became part of a huge racketeering case. He eventually pled guilty to extortion in 2003, and went to prison for a year.
This is undoubtedly the most intricate background of any recent animal escape. Although, as DNAInfo reminds us, Staten Island did see both a zebra-minihorse double jailbreak in 2012 and the hop-along getaway of a kangaroo named Buster in 2015.
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