Celebrity chef and fashion designer indicted for stealing $14,000 from Bay Ridge cafe
Vincent Tropepe hit with 41-count indictment from Brooklyn DA
A self-proclaimed celebrity chef and fashion designer from Bay Ridge was arraigned on a 41-count indictment and accused of stealing more than $14,000 from a Bay Ridge cafe, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on Friday.
Vincent Tropepe, 36, made headlines in 2014 for his claim to be the youngest person inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame. Prosecutors have charged him with grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument and falsifying business records for stealing more than $14,000 from the Yemen Cafe.
“The victims in this case worked hard to make their restaurant a success and this defendant, claiming he could help them, allegedly lied and stole their hard-earned money instead,” Gonzalez said. “I am committed to protecting small businesses, which are an important part of our communities, from fraudsters such as this defendant.”
Tropepe was arraigned on Friday in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Guy Mangano. He was released without bail and will return to court on April 17. The top charge carries a punishment of up to seven years in prison.
According to the Brooklyn DA’s Office, Tropepe was employed as a restaurant consultant at the Yemen Cafe, located at 7130 Fifth Ave. His job was to appear at hearings at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) on behalf of the restaurant, and he also trained kitchen staff on proper food handling practices.
According to prosecutors, Tropepe claimed that the restaurant owed thousands of dollars in delinquent payments, used fraudulent paperwork stating higher fines were actually owed, and pocketed the difference.
On July 13, 2018, Tropepe requested and was reimbursed $2,570 for supposed fines by the owners, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said that again on Aug. 13, 2018, he demanded and received an additional $11,650.
“This defendant falsified City documents to continually shake down a local small business for thousands of dollars in cash, according to the charges,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett.
“Forging official City documents is a crime and DOI will continue to pursue individuals who attempt to use fake records to take advantage of unwitting New Yorkers,” Garnett continued. “DOI thanks OATH for referring the original complaint that led to today’s arrest and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for its prosecution of this alleged conduct.”
The owners of the Yemen Cafe became suspicious of the violations and went to OATH to see if they were real. OATH was able to confirm that the violations were fabricated. Tropepe tried to get another payment from the cafe in December 2018, but that time they refused to pay.
Tropepe, a graduate of Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge, ran Tropepe & Associates, a restaurant consulting firm, out of Greenpoint. In a bio he submitted for an event in which he was honored, he claimed that his firm had “over $700,000 worth of unsubstantiated claims dismissed out of OATH tribunal court and had over $100,000 worth of refunds issued to business owners after appeals.”
Tropepe used to run the Bay Ridge restaurant Saint Germain before it was shuttered in 2013. In 2017, he launched a fashion brand called Vincent Tropepe Fashions, which included a line of vegan footwear. “VT Fashions brand has both the full potential and intention of evolving into a full line of luxury fashion accessories,” the website reads.
Correction (4:14 p.m.): A previous version of this article indicated that Tropepe was honored by Borough President Eric Adams for being inducted into the Borough Hall Culinary Hall of Fame. This was in error: Tropepe’s induction to the Culinary Hall of Fame took place during a ceremony at Borough Hall, during which Adams provided a citation. There is no Borough Hall Culinary Hall of Fame. We regret the error.
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