A Bronx man has been charged with concealing a human corpse after the body of an actor best known for his role in the Oscar-winning film “Green Book” was found dumped outside a sheet-metal shop in the borough’s Hunts Point section, the police said on Thursday.
The dead man, identified by the police as Frank Vallelonga Jr., 60, was found on Oak Point Avenue just before 4 a.m. Monday by officers responding to a 911 call about an unconscious man, officials said.
Emergency services workers pronounced Mr. Vallelonga dead at the scene, the police said. His body showed no obvious signs of trauma, and the medical examiner’s office was conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death, according to the police, who described Mr. Vallelonga as homeless.
In addition to concealment of a human corpse, the man arrested in the case, Steven Smith, 35, was charged with several other crimes, including grand larceny of a vehicle and criminal possession of stolen property, according to court records.
Mr. Smith was arrested after a review of surveillance video showed a gray Hyundai Elantra that he was driving stop at the Oak Point Avenue address, according to a criminal complaint. He got out of the car, pulled a body out of the passenger’s side, dropped it onto the sidewalk, got back in the car and drove off, the complaint says.
The car belonged to Mr. Vallelonga’s brother Nick, who told the police that Mr. Smith did not have permission to be driving it, the complaint says.
Mr. Smith told investigators that he did not know Frank Vallelonga Jr. “at all,” the complaint says.
“That dude was dead already,” Mr. Smith told the police, according to the complaint. “He overdosed. I didn’t have anything to do with that.”
A woman Mr. Smith referred to as “Pam” approached him and said that someone had overdosed in the car, Mr. Smith continued, the complaint says. “I went to the car and drove off. I can’t remember which way.”
He added, according to the complaint, “I got the body out by pulling him out of the car on the floor.”
Mr. Smith was released after being arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court and is scheduled to return to court next month, records show. A spokesman for the Legal Aid Society, which is representing him, said Mr. Smith “was not involved in the decedent’s unfortunate passing” and declined to say more, pending further investigation.
“Green Book,” which won the Oscar for best picture of 2018, was based on the story of Mr. Vallelonga’s father, Frank Vallelonga Sr., a onetime Copacabana bouncer who was hired to protect Don Shirley, a Black pianist, as he toured the Jim Crow South in 1962. The movie, and its selection as best picture, were subjects of substantial controversy.
The younger Mr. Vallelonga played his father’s brother Rudy in the film. Viggo Mortensen played the elder Mr. Vallelonga. Nick Vallelonga, who co-wrote the “Green Book” screenplay, shared the Oscar for best original screenplay. Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Mr. Shirley.
In addition to “Green Book,” Frank Vallelonga Jr. had small roles in several other television shows and movies, most recently “The Birthday Cake” last year. His father, who died in 2013, was also an actor. The elder Mr. Vallelonga, known professionally as Tony Lip, often portrayed organized crime figures, most notably the mob boss Carmine Lupertazzi in HBO’s “The Sopranos.”