A Midwood restaurant owner is facing up to eight years behind bars for allegedly offering a cash bribe to an undercover investigator in an effort to avoid several health code violations.
Police arrested Badri Braunzbourg, the owner of Argo Restaurant on Coney Island Avenue on Tuesday, on charges of bribery in the third degree and giving unlawful gratuities, according to New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber.
“As charged, this restaurant owner was more concerned with dodging health code violations than with the safety of his customers. Rather than remediate the vermin violations in his eatery, the defendant tried to bribe his way out of them,” Strauber said.
The DOI commish thanked the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspector who prompted the investigation into Braunzbourg after they allegedly declined a bribe while inspecting the eatery.
Violations such as uncovered garbage cans, dead cockroaches, mouse droppings and the failure to post the Restaurant’s “C” letter grade card, were all observed by a DOI investigator posing as a health department inspector during a follow-up inspection of the restaurant serving Georgian and Eastern European cuisine on Dec. 2, 2022.
The criminal complaint alleges Braunzbourg first offered the investigator a cash bribe of $200 in exchange for not reporting the health code violations. The offer was then allegedly increased to $300 and handed over to the inspector. Investigators said the interaction was captured on undercover video, and that Braunzbourg can be heard telling the investigator: “I give you $300, make it nice, do not give me more violations. Help me out please, do something, whatever you can do.”
Braunzbourg is due to appear in court on April 18, facing a possible eight years in jail if convicted on both charges.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, whose office is prosecuting the case, said the charges against Braunzbourg send a strong message that “bribing a public official will not be tolerated in our city.”
“Health inspections of restaurants ensure sanitary conditions and the safety of customers. This defendant, instead of correcting violations in his establishment, allegedly tried to bribe the inspector – corrupting the process and potentially endangering the public,” said Gonzalez.
Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan echoed Gonzalez’s sentiment, saying public health must be rooted in fairness to be seen as legitimate.
“Attempts to corrupt our processes can undermine health itself. Our staff are heroes and our inspectors won’t be bought,” said Vasan. “We’re proud of this inspector who called the authorities to hold this establishment accountable.”