'The Sopranos' and a growing cast list of misdemeanours

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The Independent US

Tony Soprano would not be pleased. One after the other, the cast members of the landmark US Mob series The Sopranos have fallen foul of the law. Worse than that, they keep getting caught.

This week it was the turn of the Mob bosses' favourite chef Artie Bucco, the actor John Ventimiglia, and his bodyguard Perry Annunziata, the actor Louis Gross, to be arrested and charged by New York police.

They join the celebrated cast's already large hall of shame that includes Robert Iler, a child actor who plays Tony's son - he has already pleaded guilty to mugging tourists.

At least Mr Gross, who plays Tony's musclebound minder, stayed true to his Mob role and observed the code of silence, omerta, when talking to reporters after being released on bail.

The former fitness model, 23, shrugged off the charges against him saying: "I don't know nothing. I'm innocent. I'm always innocent."

Mr Gross was charged with criminal mischief after a woman claimed he broke into her house last month. According to police reports, Mr Gross was originally charged on Sunday night with the more serious offence of stealing more than $2,700 ((£1,400)in cash and property but those charges were later reduced to the more minor crime of criminal mischief.

Mr Ventimiglia, whose frustrated restaurant owner and wannabe mobster has been one of the mainstays of the series now in its sixth and final season, was arrested for drink-driving and drug possession.

The 42-year-old was picked up after police officers spotted him weaving suspiciously in and out of the busy Brooklyn traffic. When officers stopped him he allegedly had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and smelt of alcohol. According to a criminal complaint, police also found a plastic bag and envelope containing traces of cocaine.

His lawyer, Benjamin Petrofsky, said: "John feels terrible and embarrassed. Until we gather all the information, we will have no further comment." Mr Ventimiglia has been released without bail and is to appear in court next month.

While the travails of the make-believe mobsters has delighted New York's tabloid press, a string of serious criminal charges against former or current cast members has cast a less than glitzy shadow over the influential HBO programme. In December last year, Lillo Brancato Jnr, who played an aspiring mobster on the show, pleaded not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder for his alleged role in a burglary during which an off-duty police officer, Daniel Enchautegui, was shot and killed as he confronted intruders in the Bronx, New York.

Mr Brancato, who had been charged earlier that year for heroin possession, was arrested shortly after the shooting. A trial is due to commence later this year.

Earlier in 2005, one of the shows main stars, Vincent Pastore, was sentenced to 70 hours' community service after pleading guilty to the attempted assault of his girlfriend Lisa Regina who also played a minor role the show's fifth series.

The youngest member of the show's cast to fall foul of the law, Mr Iler was arrested when he was just 16 for mugging two Brazilian tourists on Manhattan's Upper East Side and possessing marijuana.

Mr Iler, who plays Tony's rebellious young son, could have been jailed for 15 years under New York's tough sentencing guidelines but he pleaded guilty and was shown leniency. He was given three years' probation instead.

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