BAY RIDGE — A Bay Ridge man scammed thousands of dollars from a local restaurant in his neighborhood, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
Vincent Tropepe, 36, was arraigned on a 41-count indictment Friday for swindling more than $14,000 from Yemen Cafe at 7130 Fifth Ave. in Bay Ridge which he claimed owed thousands of dollars in fines, prosecutors said.
The chef-to-proclaimed consultant presented fraudulent paperwork to store owners claiming he’d found and then negotiated lower fines with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH)—therefore saving their nine-year-old business from closure.
Between July 13, 2018, and August 18, 2018, Tropepe demanded $14,220 for repayment claiming he paid OATH for fines levied against the business while also supporting his claims with fabricated documents. He made a third and unsuccessful attempt to scam the store owners in December.
Owners of the restaurant paid Tropepe on both occasions and later became skeptical about the consultant, who even registered as an OATH representative to speak on behalf of the restaurant.
“When we checked on the DOB, there were no violations,” said Mahmood Alsubai, manager and member of the family business. Also, the closure warrant wasn’t served by any city officials and basically that’s when we realized that something was going on.”
When owners contacted OATH with documents, the agency confirmed the paperwork and fines were fraudulent.
Tropepe faces 19 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, 20 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, one count of third-degree grand larceny, and one count of third-degree attempted grand larceny.
“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,” said Department of Investigations Commissioner Margaret Garnett.
Tropepe returns to court on April 17, 2019.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, will prosecute the case. Tropepe faces up to seven years in jail if convicted.
Different allegations of fraud in the area emerged last month when Justin Brannan asked the DOI to investigate potential foul-play amid a string of fines against shopowners with illegal awning installments.