Hard time for Rebar owner

Rebar owner headed behind bars
Community Newspaper Group / Matthew Perlman

Sorry didn’t cut it.

On Monday a judge sentenced the Dumbo bar owner who bilked dozens of couples out of more than $1 million in wedding money to three years and four months to 10 years in prison for tax fraud — the exact amount prosecutors had sought — moments after he apologized for the first time.

“I completely failed the trust that was put in me by my family and friends and the city and state of New York and the borough of Brooklyn and, most importantly, my employees and customers,” Stevens said in Brooklyn Supreme Court, as the New York Post reported.

“I’ll spend my time in prison trying to become a better man so when I come out, I can begin the long process of starting to repay the financial and emotional debts that I incurred,” he said, per the Post.

Stevens agreed in June to pay restitution to the couples he fleeced out of $1.8 million. Rebar closed abruptly in May with more than 200 weddings on its calendar, leaving dozens of couples in the lurch, some of whom had dropped tens of thousands of dollars in deposits. Now, one groom he agreed to pay back is saying he would rather see Stevens work off his debt than languish in a jail cell.

“He can’t make any money in jail,” said Christian Pascarella, who says he lost $17,000 to Stevens. “I’d rather him not be in prison and paying me back.”

The felony fraud and larceny charges Stevens pleaded guilty to were for stealing from the state by collecting more than $200,000 in sales taxes that he didn’t pass on, and failing to collect $1.2 million more between 2009 and 2012.

Brooklyn’s top lawman said the sentencing should serve as a deterrent to would-be fraudsters, and took pains to point out that tax money belongs to taxpayers.

“Today’s sentence sends a clear message that we will prosecute tax cheats and put them in prison for stealing money from the people of New York,” said District Attorney Ken Thompson in a statement.

The language was apparently in response to criticism that prosecutors pursued charges against Stevens for stealing from the government while letting the wedding fraud slide.

Some couples showed up to the sentencing on Monday, according to news reports, but Pascarella wasn’t among them.

“I didn’t feel like getting out of work for this,” he said. “He’s cost me enough money, this guy.”

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Sign of the crimes: Stephanie Kutch and Christian Pascarella helped organize the 150 couples who were affected by Rebar’s sudden shuttering.
Community Newspaper Group / Matthew Perlman