Antonio Crisci. Photo / Babiche Martens

Antonio Crisci. Photo / Babiche Martens

A top restaurant owner has been exposed as an FBI fugitive after a fingerprint scan revealed he was on the run from a drugs charge.

The past of Antonio Crisci came back to haunt him when he was arrested at Los Angeles Airport last year on a historic arrest warrant.

The warrant was activated after a fingerprint scan matched the details on the warrant from the 1980s.

FBI agents said Crisci was using a different name to the one linked to the 1980s charge when he was arrested. He was sent to New York, where the charge was laid and he spent time in prison.

He had since returned to New Zealand and this week was lying low on Waiheke Island.

Auckland's hospitality scene has been abuzz with news that Crisci, one of Auckland's best- known restaurateurs, had been arrested on an old drugs charge.

Crisci found success here after he established Nelson St's Italian restaurant Toto before moving on to Parnell's highly regarded Non Solo Pizza. His success led to buying homes in Parnell, Langs Beach and Waiheke Island, where he owns upmarket restaurant Poderi Crisci.

"They picked him up going through Los Angeles," said one restaurateur. "He was still on the computer system." It was the volcanic eruption in June last year of Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle which led to Crisci's arrest.

Friends say Crisci has always returned to his native Italy on routes which did not take him through the US.

However, the volcano forced him to change his travel plans and fly via the US.

An FBI spokeswoman said Crisci was arrested at Los Angeles airport on a federal warrant from New York.

"US Customs agents discovered he was using a false name and that his prints came back to the name on the FBI warrant." They contacted one of our agents stationed at the airport and we took custody of him. He would have had an initial appearance in federal court in Los Angeles upon arrest and then ... would have been sent back to NY for prosecution."

The spokeswoman said Crisci was sentenced and released in New York for the time served while waiting for trial.

Crisci went to great lengths to avoid speaking to the Herald on Sunday. His wife, Vivienne Farnell, said: "I have no comment to make about that."