Federal authorities Thursday charged a Melville man they said was identified from surveillance video with the unsolved June killing of Louis Barbati, the owner of the iconic L&B Spumoni Gardens neighborhood pizzeria in Brooklyn.
Andres Fernandez, 41, gunned down Barbati outside his house in Dyker Heights as the victim arrived home from his Gravesend restaurant with a plastic bag containing $15,000 in cash after laying in wait, a complaint said, but then fled without taking the money.
Fernandez, a tall man with close-cropped black hair and a heavily tattooed left arm, was detained on charges of attempted robbery, use of a firearm and murder during a brief appearance in Brooklyn federal court hours after his arrest at home. He was sent to a hospital for drug evaluation after reporting recent drug use, a source said.
The federal complaint was sworn out by an agent from the FBI’s organized crime unit but the document did not connect Barbati’s killing to the mob, or suggest another motive for the fatal shooting.
Barbati’s sister and other relatives and family friends attending Fernandez’s court appearance said they didn’t recognize him or know him, and had not been told a motive by law enforcement. Some said they suspected it was just a robbery gone bad, and dismissed speculation that it might have related to a dispute over the restaurant’s pizza sauce recipe.
“The loss of ‘Lou Lou’ leaves a void that someone is being brought to justice aids in the healing process,” family lawyer Arthur Aidala said in a statement. “We now hope that the court system will move swiftly to bring this matter to a just result and that, if convicted, the perpetrator receives the maximum penalty.”
The money Barbati was carrying, the federal complaint said, was unusually large because cash distributions of restaurant proceeds only occur a handful of times each year.
Video surveillance footage allegedly showed Fernandez, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, sunglasses and a gold necklace, lurking near Barbati’s home just before the shooting. The footage allegedly shows Fernandez parking his car near the house, putting on a dark glove, and holding a firearm behind a tree as Barbati arrived.
The surveillance did not show Barbati being shot several times, but did capture Fernandez walking across the street with the gun and then fleeing to a white Acura with a license number later traced to him, and “multiple individuals” identified him from the video, the complaint said.
The complaint also alleged that Fernandez’ cellphone records showed he was in the vicinity of the restaurant earlier in the day, and later present at the murder scene.