An Ocala police officer took note of some “suspicious incidents” at the Chefs of Napoli IV restaurant in Ocala on Wednesday after officers and firefighters responded to calls of a possible gas leak at the eatery.

Ocala police officers were turning people away from the Chefs of Napoli IV restaurant at SW 5400 College Rd. on Wednesday afternoon after a gas leak was found in the eatery.

There were reports of a similar leak at the Spring Hill Chefs of Napoli, which also is owned by sex trafficking suspect Luigi Barile and Antonio Cacace, who had his own run-in with the law in January 2015.

Those reports were relayed to the Wildwood Police Department on Wednesday, and officers immediately inspected the former Chefs of Napoli restaurant on U.S. 301 to make sure no similar incidents had taken place there.

That restaurant, which hasn’t been owned by Barile and Cacace since September 2016, recently changed its name to Napolinos. Officers and firefighters also inspected it Thursday morning to make sure it was safe for the employees to enter the building.

On Wednesday, police officers were stationed outside the Ocala restaurant at 5400 SW College Road and were turning away anyone who approached the business. Officers, detectives, crews from Marion County Fire Rescue and Ocala Fire Rescue responded to check out the building, as well as a fire marshal and fire detective.

Luigi Barile, co-owner of The Chefs of Napoli restaurant in Ocala, was arrested last month on human trafficking charges in Hernando County.

Ocala Police officers were first alerted to the situation by the owner of a Hardwood Smokehouse Ocala, which is located next to Chefs of Napoli. The owner reported that the embattled Italian eatery was open Monday morning but shut down sometime during the afternoon.

The barbecue restaurant owner said he first smelled gas on Tuesday but didn’t call for help because his employees stated they couldn’t smell it. He said he continued to smell it on Wednesday morning so he called Teco Peoples Gas. He said a crew arrived a short time later and took readings inside his restaurant.

A Teco employee confirmed detecting the presence of gas inside the barbeque restaurant and Pro Nails, which is located on the west side of Napoli. The crew then found a leak at Chefs of Napoli and shut off the gas. And they detected an even higher presence of gas than at the surrounding businesses, the report says.

Antonio Cacace and Luigi Barile, founders of The Chefs of Napoli restaurant chain.

Ocala police obtained a search warrant, entered Chefs of Napoli and started to collect evidence and document the scene with photographs. The outside freezer was locked so a detective requested that a Marion County Fire Rescue unit respond to open it, the report says.

Nothing suspicious was found inside the freezer “other than a bad odor,” the report says. And firefighters helped the fire marshal, a fire detective and an evidence officer gain access to the roof.

Initial reports on Wednesday were that gas lines were possibly cut at both the Ocala and Spring Hill restaurants, with one report suggesting a burning candle was found in one of the businesses. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which oversaw the human trafficking sweep that Barile was arrested in, didn’t return a call for information about the Spring Hill restaurant on Thursday.

Barile was one of nine men arrested May 16 in connection with the sex trafficking sting in Hernando County. He was charged with human trafficking, conspiracy to commit human trafficking, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and lewd and lascivious battery on a victim between the ages of 12 and 16 and originally was held on no bond on the human trafficking charge and $650,000 bond on the other charges.

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis called the case against Luigi Barile, co-owner of The Chefs of Napoli in Wildwood, particularly disturbing.

But Barile was released May 23 on $25,000 bond after Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. rejected a motion by Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Julie L. Sercus for pretrial detention. The judge found the motion to be “factually insufficient” and ordered that Barile’s bond be drastically reduced from the original amount of $650,000.

Sercus had argued that Barile “poses the threat of harm to the community” and had asked Merritt to consider several factors, including the fact that Barile, who was born in Italy and lives in Spring Hill with his wife and a child, “has the financial means to flee the jurisdiction of this Court.”

Sercus’ failed motion for pretrial detention claims that Barile responded to an internet advertisement for sex with a young teenage girl that was posted by a person acting in a guardian role for her. The motion claims that Barile “negotiated the terms of the commercial sex act” and then traveled to a location where he paid cash to engage in sex acts with the victim.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the case against nine men arrested last month in a human trafficking case came to light through an anonymous tip.

The motion also claims that Barile, who is 6-foot-3-inches tall and weighs 450 pounds, admitted to meeting the teenager over the internet, meeting her at her home and at a hotel in Ocala. And it claims that he admitted to engaging in a sex act with the victim on at least one occasion and “bringing two men with him to the hotel in Ocala to meet the victim for commercial sex.”

Barile, who lives at 3487 Misty View Drive in Spring Hill and is being represented by attorney Lee Michael Pearlman of St. Petersburg, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The other eight men charged in the sweep are:

  • Lawrence Edward Kemble, 70, of Ocala, arrested in Marion County (retired postal inspector from Sussex County, N.J.);
  • Matthew Christopher Doyle, 39, Spring Hill, arrested in Hernando County (full-time East Lake Fire Rescue lieutenant and a part-time registered nurse at Bayfront Health Brooksville);
  • Joseph Andrew Easton, 24, Inverness, arrested in Citrus County;
  • Bryan Joseph Giguire, 46, Homosassa, arrested in Citrus County (Southeast Florida regional manager for PowerDMS, a policy management software company);
  • James William Hancock, 67, Delray Beach, arrested in Palm Beach County;
  • Shawn Christopher Henson, 39, Newberry, arrested in Gilchrist County;
  • Latchman Kaladeen, 49, Wesley Chapel, arrested in Pasco County (active ICE detainer); and
  • Jason Michael Raulerson, 46, High Springs, arrested in Alachua County.