Princess Diner Owners Plead Guilty to Theft

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Richard Bivona and John Kalogeras.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Monday the guilty pleas of Richard Bivona, owner of The Princess Diner in Southampton,  John Kalogeras, manager of Princess Diner, and the corporation, RJT Food & Restaurant, LLC. Bivona and Kalogeras were charged with repeatedly failing to pay restaurant workers and scheming to defraud them by continually lying about when they could expect to receive full compensation. Together, they stole a combined total of over $132,000 from 23 workers.

On Monday, Mr. Bivona pled guilty in Suffolk County Supreme Court before the Judge Fernando Camacho to Scheme to Defraud, a class E felony, and Failure to Pay Wages, an unclassified misdemeanor. At the time of his plea, the court informed Mr. Bivona that he intends to sentence Mr. Bivona to a jail term not to exceed six months at his sentencing on June 15. Mr. Kalogeras pled guilty to Failure to Pay Wages, an unclassified misdemeanor, and the court indicated that he will be sentenced to a conditional discharge. Lastly, RJT Food & Restaurant, LLC pled guilty to Scheme to Defraud and Failure to Secure Workers’ Compensation Coverage as a class E felony. The plea mandates that the defendants pay a total of $132,011.11 in restitution to workers – including $88,428.11 in unpaid wages to 15 workers for incidents that took place between August and December 2016, and $43,583.00 to eight other employees for incidents that took place between January 2017 and February 2018.

To date, Attorney General Schneiderman has won back nearly $30 million in stolen wages for over 21,000 workers across New York, including over $8 million for more than 3,000 restaurant workers.

“Employees deserve fair pay for a fair day’s work,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “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.”

Princess Diner, located at 32 Montauk Highway, has been a popular restaurant for many decades in Southampton. In August 2016, Mr. Bivona took over the diner from Mr. Kalogeras and his family, but kept Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Bivona withheld most of their credit card tips from them or paid them only a partial amount several weeks later.

Both Mr. Bivona and Mr. 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 by Mr. Bivona as promised, but eventually 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, Mr. 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.

The investigation was handled for the Attorney General’s Office by Investigator Melissa Kaplan and Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella.

 

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