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Lawyer: Busy chef a ‘patsy’ — and not the first

The Brooklyn Paper
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Alleged Busy Chef scammer Dan Kaufman’s lawyer says his client was just a “patsy” who fell victim to a shadowy Brooklyn Heights lawyer who makes a career out of repeatedly opening, closing and reopening restaurants in the same locations.

If so, Kaufman certainly is not the first person who claims to have been victimized by lawyer Alan Young.

In 2003, Young and real-estate broker Paula Ingram opened Acqua, an Italian diner at 111 Court St. in Brooklyn Heights. The partnership soon turned sour, and Ingram sued Young, and a second partner, Nasser Ghorchian, claiming that they made decisions without her approval, despite an agreement requiring that all decisions be made jointly.

Ghorchian — a career restaurateur — was responsible for operating the restaurant, but Ingram charged in court papers that he “completely abdicated his responsibi­lities.” Then, when Acqua didn’t do well, Young reopened the restaurant as a music lounge called Café 111, bought out Gorchian’s share, and eventually closed the restaurant completely — all without Ingram’s input.

So in 2005, she sued for her lost investment of $214,000 and a judge ruled in her favor.

“There was a substantial settlement. I was very, very pleased,” Ingram told The Brooklyn Paper.

Young and his lawyer declined to comment.

But Ghorchian had plenty to say about his former partner, from whom he broke away years ago, though his name remains on the liquor license at the now-infamous Busy Chef.

“I have never been involved with [Young] in the last two years and a half,” Ghorchian said. “I gave up my percentage two years ago. I sold my share.”

Young, though, remains behind the scenes at Busy Chef, as well as its also closed sister restaurants near the corner of Henry and Cranberry Streets: Oven, the Blue Pig ice cream shop, and the Wine Bar at 50 Henry Street.

But it is Kaufman who is facing serious jail time as a result of the Busy Chef scandal that broke in mid-July. Police arrested Kaufman on charges that he swindled $25,000 from 19 customers’ credit card numbers and attempted to steal an additional $46,000.

Kaufman’s attorney Peter Brill said this week that Kaufman was a scapegoat for Young’s misdeeds.

“Dan adamantly denies any involvement in participating in frauds on credit card transactio­ns,” Brill told The Brooklyn Paper. “There was no way for him to receive any money from this scheme, so it’s purely illogical why he would even engage in such a scheme.”

Kaufman worked his way up from a cook to manage Busy Chef, and when Young offered Kaufman a stake in the business, he took it, Brill said.

But Kaufman never actually received any benefits, and so it was easy for Young to pin alleged fraud schemes on him, Brill added.

“Since [Kaufman is] technically an owner, it makes him responsible for the criminality,” Brill said. “But he absolutely never, in no way, shape or form, stole anyone’s credit card information. He feels as bad as anybody else that this business failed.”

Brill said the stolen credit card income went straight to a corporate account, and not to Kaufman — a suggestion that Young, not Kaufman, benefited from the alleged fraud.

He said that “a lot more details” will emerge in the weeks to come as Kaufman nears an expected indictment in the fall.

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Reader Feedback

Valerie Semplicino from Brooklyn Heights says:
I have long been suspicious why so many restaurants failed in quick succession in that one location. The pattern for all of them was the same -- major and expensive renovation, restaurant opens with pretentious name, serves mediocre food, restaurant fails; another major renovation quickly followed, restaurant opens with different pretentious name, same mediocre overpriced food, etc., etc. Would be nice to see a real business go in there.
Aug. 7, 2008, 2:09 pm
dm from Clinton Hill says:
I got double-charged at Oven. Even after I called my credit card company at the restaurant and confirmed that the transaction had gone through the first time, the restaurant owner insisted that they run my credit card again. I later learned that they had charged me twice. It was very shady. I never followed up on it, though.
Aug. 7, 2008, 2:43 pm
dm from Clinton Hill says:
The pizza was bad, too.
Aug. 7, 2008, 2:44 pm
charles from seattle says:
no good
Aug. 7, 2008, 7:02 pm
bob from brooklyn heights says:
pizza wasn't [always] bad. it was [sometimes] really good. it was consistently inconsistent. nice feel to the space, though.
Aug. 7, 2008, 11:02 pm
Ace3279 from BK Heights says:
We ordered the pizza with the egg on it, and it was scrambled egg! Who does that? I didn't order a breakfast pizza. Also, the crust sucks.

I only went there when I had coupons that were too good not to use. Regardless, I also got scammed as my credit card was used at Walmarts in Florida after I went there and my other friend who went there also had her debit card number stolen. Who are these jerks?
Aug. 8, 2008, 9:16 pm
someone from Vermont says:
The Dan Kaufman I know is GUILTY! Give it more time ... and he will do the time he deserves.
Aug. 12, 2008, 8:29 pm
what goes around... from park slope says:
when i first started working for Dan, just like most of the loyal customers, i believed his hype. as time went on and the closer we worked together i got to really know him and that lead to me leaving the position (just months prior to the current allegations) it was a hard lesson, but i learn a lot about what NOT to do. i'm not a religious person but a firm believer in karma and all of the fraudulent behavior i witnessed is just coming back to him. a part of me wants to rejoice at he current situation but i just really feel bad for the people in the neighborhood, some of which i am still in touch with.
Aug. 15, 2008, 1:03 pm
Olde Client from Brooklyn says:
If this is the Alan Young from Brooklyn’s Court Street area who lawyered for my business corporation I know him to be conniving, underhanded and a liar – a real piece-a-pizza
Feb. 8, 2011, 1:59 pm

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