Calling the ‘Kettle’ black! Ridge bar owner stole $1M from taxpayers (including you!)

Calling the ‘Kettle’ black! Ridge bar owner stole $1M from taxpayers (including you!)
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

The owner of a popular Bay Ridge watering hole is headed to the slammer for stealing nearly $1.2 million in tax revenue from the city and state.

Thomas Casatelli, a former firefighter and owner of Kettle Black, at Third Avenue and 87th Street, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two felonies stemming from his theft of the money from New York taxpayers in the form of sales taxes that he collected, but did not hand over to the taxman, between June, 2005, and August, 2010.

In addition, the 40-year-old Casatelli admitted to shorting the city and state of $44,654 in withholding taxes by paying employees off the books, as well as to under-reporting his personal income when he paid his city and state income taxes.

“By failing to pay his taxes, the defendant stole from the pockets of honest taxpayers,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

In pleading guilty, Casatelli agreed to pay back $1,326,940, including penalties, interest and underpaid worker’s compensation premiums. He will pay back $580,135 before he is sentenced on March 10. Casatelli’s plea deal also includes a 90-day jail sentence.

Ridgites who know Casatelli for his generosity to worthy causes are standing by him.

Diane Hunt, who organized a charitable event at Kettle Black in 2005, said that Casatelli went out of his way to make the fund raiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation — which is dedicated to helping young cancer victims — a success.

“You couldn’t meet a nicer person,” Hunt added. “He was just wonderful to us. I’m in shock at the news.”

The Merchants of Third Avenue honored Casatelli with its “Pioneer Award” last year, but even after the guilty plea, the group is standing by its honoree.

“Tommy’s a wonderful guy,” said Chuck Otey, the group’s spokesman. “I would trust him to watch my kids. He’s always willing to do more than he’s asked to do, always there with a smile. Everyone is pulling for him to get his life back in order.”

The bar is especially popular with firefighters and cops, as Casatelli is himself a former fireman. Many locals remember that his truck was crushed by falling debris at Ground Zero on 9-11.

This is not the first time that Kettle Black has made headlines. In April, several relatives of state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) were arrested in a massive, early morning drunken brawl that also involved two off-duty cops and an off-duty fireman. The nephew, Daniel Golden, was one of two men accused of punching out one of the cops.

By press time, Casatelli had not returned a call requesting comment.