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.