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Long Island diner owner, manager stole $82G from workers, AG says

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Richard Bivona, owner of Princess Diner in Water Mill, and manager John Kalogeras were charged with failing to pay restaurant workers' wages, and threatening workers and their families. They were arraigned on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Credit: New York attorney general’s office

The owner and the manager of a Long Island diner were arrested, accused of multiple felonies after failing to pay workers and threatening them and their families, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Thirteen cooks, dishwashers, bussers and servers were deprived of more than $82,000 of wages, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement.

The defendants, both Suffolk residents, were arraigned Tuesday after being charged in a 35-count indictment, he said.

The owner of the Princess Diner in Water Mill, Richard Bivona, and its former owner, John Kalogeras, who stayed on as manager after selling the restaurant to Bivona, “continually” lied to their workers about when they would be paid, Schneiderman said.

They also were charged with harassment, he said.

“These defendants allegedly engaged in a long-running scheme to not only steal their employees’ hard-earned money, but to intimidate and harass their victims when they attempted to speak up,” Schneiderman said.

The indictment charges both defendants and the firm that owns the diner, RJT Food & Restaurant, LLC, with grand and petty larceny, scheme to defraud and failure to pay wages from Aug. 15, 2016, to Dec. 31 2016, Schneiderman said.

The owner and his business also were charged with failure to secure workers’ compensation coverage, failure to keep labor records, and willful failure to pay a contribution to the unemployment fund, he said.

Many employees, who had worked for the diner for more than 10 years, stayed on after it changed hands, though they were paid “far less than minimum wage,” Schneiderman said.

Further, they often did not receive any of their hourly wages “on a weekly basis or at all,” he said. Pay checks, he said, were “sporadic or never came at all,” Schneiderman said.

And, he said, none were paid overtime despite regularly working more than 40 hours a week at the Southampton restaurant.

Only one of the defendants’ attorneys could be immediately reached.

“The claim that Mr. Bivona failed to pay his employees’ wages is categorically false and will be proven so in court,” the defendant’s Garden City lawyer, John F. Carman, wrote via email.

“A worker’s most basic right is the right to be paid for his or her work,” Schneiderman said. “We will not allow New York workers to be exploited and demeaned.”

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