The Princess And The Fraud

Independent /James J. Mackin

The owner and manager pleaded guilty. Last Friday Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Princess Diner owner Richard Bivona and manager John Kalogeras pleaded guilty to repeatedly failing to pay restaurant workers and scheming to defraud them by continually lying about when they could expect to receive full compensation.

They stole a combined total of over $132,000 from 23 workers at the Southampton diner. Bivona faces up to six months in prison and he will have to join Kalogeras in paying the $132,000 in restitution to the workers.

For the exact figures, the plea mandates that the defendants pay a total of $132,011.11 in restitution to their workers and it will be broken into two payments. Fifteen workers will receive $88,428.11 in unpaid wages for incidents that took place between August and December in 2016 and eight other employees will receive $43,583.00 for incidents that took place between January 2017 and February 2018.

Located at the 27/27A junction, Princess Diner has been a popular restaurant for many decades. In 2016, Bivona took over the diner from Kalogeras and his family, but kept Kalogeras on as the manager to run the day-to-day operations. Restaurant employees – including cooks, dishwashers, bussers, and servers – many who had previously worked for the diner for over ten years, continued to work under Bivona’s stewardship. Between August and December 2016, workers were not paid their hourly wages, which often included overtime hours, on a weekly basis or at all.

Employees who received cash tips lived off those cash tips exclusively, since Bivona withheld most of their credit card tips from them or paid them only a partial amount several weeks later.

Both Bivona and Kalogeras made repeated promises to the workers that payment was imminent, but many workers either never received any payment or only received sporadic payment after waiting for weeks to be paid. Employees continued to work at the diner in the hopes of eventually getting paid as promised, but quit when they did not receive payment after months of promises.

Together, the defendants cheated 15 employees out of $88,428.11 in wages. Separately, Bivona cheated another eight employees out of $43,583.00 by failing to pay them and reimburse them for restaurant expenses between January 2017 and February 2018.

In a release announcing the pleas, Attorney General Schneiderman stated, “Employees deserve fair pay for a fair day’s work. Companies that scheme to exploit their employees and stiff them of the wages they earned should take note: We will take you to court to win back workers’ hard-earned money.”

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