A Romany Family Is Trying to Bail Their Son Out of Rikers Island With “Fishy” Gold Jewelry, A Judge Says


In mid-April, 41-year-old Tom Eli was arrested, suspected of slashing an acquaintance outside a nightclub in the Flatiron. Since then, the usually routine matter of posting bail for him has gotten much, much more interesting. Eli’s family is Romany (or “Gypsy,” the antique racial slur the Daily News keeps using in their headlines about the case). His mother, a “retired carnival worker and part-time palm reader,” according to the New York Times, would like to bail him out using a pile of gold jewelry and coins. But yesterday, a State Supreme Court Judge called the situation “fishy,” saying he needed more time to determine the gold had been lawfully obtained.

The Daily News reported last week that an appraiser had looked at the jewelry, which includes bracelets and coins struck on a thick chain, and concluded that it was genuine, worth over $100,000.

But State Supreme Court Judge Charles H. Solomon didn’t seem certain of the provenance of the gold, and had his suspicions further aroused by the fact that a friend of Eli’s showed up to cover the bond with $50,000 in cash, but changed his mind when he heard a bond hearing would be necessary.

“Poof, he disappeared,” Solomon said, according to the NYT. “So something’s fishy, obviously. That certainly makes me suspicious.” Properties the family owns in Florida have also been deemed unacceptable as forms of collateral.

Eli’s mother, Lulu Eli Costello, told the court she’d obtained the gold at her wedding and over the years from her in-laws. And Eli’s lawyer, Thomas A. Kenniff, argued that the Eli family was being treated differently because of their cultural background. Mike Eli, the defendant’s father, told the Daily News the same thing at a previous hearing (and, in their defense, used that same slur we referenced earlier).

“It’s prejudice on Gypsies, whatever it is,” the elder Eli told the paper. “We tried everything.”

Considering that drug dealers and Wall Street criminals are both routinely allowed to post staggering cash bonds without any questions about the provenance of their money, the situation does seem a little lopsided. It’s not yet clear whether Solomon will ultimately allow the gold to be used.