‘Busy Chef’ Dan Kaufman Is in Hot Water Again

February 15, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff

By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

MANHATTAN – “Chef” Dan Kaufman, the former manager of several Brooklyn Heights restaurants who pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges of grand larceny, is back in trouble again.

According to Diem Tran, senior press officer for the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Kaufman, 37, was arrested on Jan. 26 and arraigned in Criminal Court. “Bail was set at $35,000 bond or $15,000 cash, but it looks like he didn’t make bail and is still in custody,” said Tran.

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Kaufman is charged with grand larceny this time around, too – even though he has apparently left the restaurant game behind.

According to the official complaint from New York County Criminal Court, Kaufman, who was working for a Greenwich Village-based mobile advertising startup known as Cloud Mob Media last November, told a police informer at the time that he hired two people to do work for the company. He issued two checks to them worth $16,467 and $3,024, the complaint adds.

The problem is, according to the complaint, that the aforementioned people never did any work, and that the money really went to Kaufman’s girlfriend and landlord.

“I took the money because I owed rent on a house in Montauk. I was trying to impress my girlfriend,” Kaufman is quoted as telling the informer. NYPD detectives went out to Montauk last month to arrest Kaufman.

Kaufman, whose trail is long and complicated, has found himself in financial and legal hot water on and off for at least 15 years, and seems to have a knack for opening restaurants that quickly go out of business.

When he was arrested in Brooklyn Heights in 2008, a Google search revealed that he had owned several restaurants in Boston. Kaufman is mentioned online as previously having run restaurants in Boston, including the South Kitchen and Wine Bar, Abe and Louie’s and Ristorante Fiore. When he closed the South Kitchen and Wine Bar in 2006 after only one year, he owed his former landlord $40,000, according to published reports.

In Brooklyn, Kaufman managed four restaurants on Henry Street – Busy Chef, the Blue Pig ice cream parlor (with a partner), the Wine Bar, and Oven. Although he allegedly represented himself as their owner, Brooklyn attorney Alan Young was the actual owner, according to employees of the restaurants interviewed in 2008 by the Eagle.

Kaufman told the employees he was hired “to get the restaurants into shape,” but what he did was to copy customers’ credit-card numbers, use them to rack up phony charges, and then falsify the books to cover up the thefts. Kaufman was sentenced to five years probation in 2010 after pleading guilty to grand larceny, and was made to pay restitution to Citigroup and American Express for the phony credit-card transactions.

As for the restaurants, they were shut down with little or no warning, apparently by Young and his associates, soon after Kaufman’s arrest, leaving about 50 people out of work. The current Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar, in the same location as Kaufman’s Wine Bar, is under different ownership and management and has no relationship to Kaufman.

In 2008, Peter Brill, a Suffolk County-based attorney, represented Kaufman and was interviewed about the case. A call Wednesday to Brill’s office yielded only the comment, “I don’t think he’s a client – the name doesn’t sound familiar.”

A story in Gawker shed light on Kaufman’s activities in between his Brooklyn Heights years and today.

Kaufman’s Montauk friends, said Gawker, knew him as “Dan Kay.” He told various stories about himself – that he was a former chef at French Laundry, that he had been a guitarist in a Boston hardcore band, that he was a two-time James Beard Award nominee and had grown up in Martha’s Vineyard. In reality, he grew up in Wayland, Mass., a suburb of Boston.

He also spent much of his time, says Gawker, cruising a dating site called OkCupid, dating various women and trying to hide their  existence from each other.

Gawker also lists his attorney as Sharyn Henry of New York County Defender Services.

The next court date is Feb. 28 for possible grand jury action, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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