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Billy Fuccillo dead at 65; built car sales chain with a huge TV persona

Syracuse.com logo Syracuse.com 6/22/2021 James T. Mulder, syracuse.com

Syracuse, N.Y. — Billy Fuccillo, a car dealer best known for touting “HUGE” deals in radio and TV ads, died Thusday at age 65.

Fucillo died at his home in Sarasota, Florida, according to his attorney, Robert Scalione. Scalione did not know the cause of death, but said Fuccillo had been ill.

Calling hours will be 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Thomas J. Pirro funeral home. A funeral Mass will be held 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter’s Church, Syracuse.

Fuccillo grew up on Long Island and went to Syracuse University in 1974 on a football scholarship.

After graduation, he took a job as a used car salesman, working for Sam Dell and Bill Rapp. He moved into car wholesaling, then opened Fuccillo Autobrokers, Inc., selling used cars from a lot on West Genesee Street. In 1989, he scored his first dealership, a Mitsubishi franchise in Watertown.

He went on to head a 26-store car empire in New York and Florida, according to The Post-Standard’s archives.

In 1991, the Billy ads exploded across Central New York.

Fuccillo is best known for his frequent television ads, touting “Y-U-U-G-ah” deals on vehicles.

It became a Syracuse catch-phrase. People stopped him for autographs and photos and asked him to say the words.

“When I’m doing what I’m doing, I feel like I’m on stage,” he said in a 1996 profile in The Post-Standard.

Fuccillo was a real showman.

He once hired daredevil stunt man Robbie Knievel to fly his motorcycle over 26 cars at Fuccillo’s dealership in the Jefferson County town Adams to promote a sale.

Friend and fellow auto dealer Michael J. Romano described Fuccillo as smart, hardworking and “classy as classy can be.”

Fuccillo had to advertise heavily when he started out to attract customers from Syracuse and Utica to buy cars from him in Adams. “He got a lot of people up there and it made him a successful guy,” said Romano, an owner of Romano Auto Dealerships.

In 2012, Fuccillo stopped appearing in his advertisements, fueling rumors that he had died.

He responded to the rumors in an interview with Syracuse.com, saying he was busy starting new car dealerships in Florida.

“People that know me, know the person I am and what I do for the communities,” Fuccillo said. “This is people starting nonsense.”

Earlier this year, Fuccillo sold his three dealerships in the Syracuse area and two in the Rochester area to Vestal-based Matthews Auto Group. He sold his two Kia dealerships in Florida in September.

Last fall, he sold his $2.5 million home in Cape Coral, Florida.

A former Fuccillo employee was charged in March with stealing about $1 million from the Fuccillo Auto Group.

State police said accountant Joseph A. Pompo was working as Fuccillo’s director of taxation and finance last year when he stole the money. Pompo created a company under owner Billy Fuccillo Sr.’s name to pocket the money, police said.

Michelle Breidenbach contributed to this story

James T. Mulder covers health and higher education. Have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or jmulder@syracuse.com

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