Busted Chef Case Still Pending

Former manager of the Busy Chef restaurants on Henry Street, Daniel “Busted Chef”Kaufman, is awaiting a trial date for 24 counts of alleged fraud after appearing in Kings County Criminal Court on Dec. 26, 2008. Kaufman, who faces seven years in jail after allegedly stealing approximately $25,000 from former customers’ credit cards, is undergoing a criminal investigation.

Kaufman, who managed former Brooklyn Heights establishments Wine Bar at 50 Henry, Busy Chef, Blue Pig Ice Cream, and Oven, was arrested in July 2008 for the alleged fraud, after which his businesses were shut down, causing dozens of workers to lose their jobs. After his arrest, Kaufman’s former partner and landlord Alan Young reportedly locked him out of his apartment. According to The Brooklyn Paper, some claim that Young was using Kaufman as a scapegoat for larger white-collar crimes.

Kaufman’s alleged fraud in Brooklyn was not the first time he has had financial troubles with restaurants. Prior to relocating to Brooklyn Heights, Kaufman owned the South Kitchen and Wine Bar in Boston. He opened the business back in 2005, and by 2006 its doors were closed. As the restaurant’s sales plummeted, Kaufman reportedly neglected to pay approximately $40,000 in rent to his former landlord, Michael Devlin.

Former South Kitchen executive chef Jerome Watkins said Kaufman was a “visionary” who had a very strong entrepreneurial spirit, but he kept financial information very secret.

“We were profitable, but there was never any money around,” Watkins said, and none of the managers or the former co-owners, Brian Culkin and Joe Maffey, knew why.

“Everything was in his name, like the bank accounts and the liquor license. He was basically controlling everything,” Watkins said. It took Watkins and the owners a few months to realize the extent to which the restaurant’s money was disappearing, and then “weird things came up.” At one point, Watkins said, Kaufman hired his girlfriend to work 15 hours per week, but she received a 40 hour per week paycheck.

After having lost nearly $500,000, the restaurant had to close down. Nearly 30 people lost their jobs, including two chefs who were hoping to start their careers.

“It is really disappointing because you are building yourself, building your career, and suddenly you have to start over,” Watkins said.

Kaufman’s business failures did not begin in Brooklyn or Boston, but in his earlier days in Burlington, Vermont. [ed. note: actually, Kaufman started out in Boston, then fled to Vermont, then to Brooklyn] According to The Burlington Free Press, a popular Italian restaurant called Tuscan Kitchen had to close in 2007 due to ongoing financial problems.

Additionally, ShamelessRestaurants.com claimed that Adriana’s in Burlington had to close for similar reasons. Prior to venturing into the restaurant business, Kaufman served as the senior account manager for Propeller Media Works LLC, a Burlington web design, marketing and application development firm, and as a client relations team manager for PriceWaterhouseCoopers.  As reported last year on BHB, he also served as the Chief Financial Officer for a light manufacturing firm. The company discovered suspicious corporate credit card charges of approximately $1200, allegedly made by Kaufman.

Despite Kaufman’s financial history, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, Judy Stanton, said he deserves credit for the contributions he made to the community.

“He went out of his way to be civic-minded and generous. He was more than willing to promote his business, but he wanted to serve the community,” Stanton said. Stanton referred to Kaufman’s former ice cream shop, the Blue Pig, donating cookies and ice cream to a community festival, and cakes to a bake sale.

“But this only added to the shock that people felt when they heard about the (fraud) allegations,” she said.

Even Jerome Watkins called him “passionate,” and said he “had a really strong vision about what he was doing.”

“But I’m not surprised to hear that he’s doing the same thing in Brooklyn. It’s unfortunate, but I wish him the best,” Watkins said.

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  • nabeguy

    I heard a rumor that someone in Dumbo actually hired DK. Anyone have details?

  • cummingtogetya

    Jerome needs to be corrected, Kaufman forged the owners names in order to aquire monies that never made its way into the restaurant accounts, that is why South was closed. Kaufman embezzeled hundreds of thousands of dollars. His girlfreind was part of the scheme to defraud loan companies buy using peoples idenitys and forging there names as guarentors on loan documents. Kaufman had a second POS system set up at South that funneled monies to a female aquantance, Liz, on long island who was in the glass business, funds were transfered into her accounts. This and other crimes commited by Kaufman, his girlfreind and other aquantinces also contributed to why the decision to close South happened. There is currently a suit in Federal Court in Boston to bring Kaufman and his cast of charactures to Justice. It has been a long and costly road with fernsic accountants, computer fernsics to peice all of this togeather ….

  • rick

    I’m quite curious to see the outcome of his trial. Last summer, Dan was looking for a place to live and answered our ad on Craigslist. He lived with us for a few months and seemed like the ideal housemate. He was polite, charming, and paid his rent.
    Dan, another friend, and myself came up with an idea for a cooking show and decided to go into business together. Just for the record, he was not going to be the star. The man can talk about cooking but cannot actually do it very well. Anyhow, we decided to do a simple background check on him before engaging in any kind of business. What we found on Google just made our heads spin.
    To make a long story short, we asked him to leave. Although he denied everything at first, way too many things didn’t add up and he agreed to leave. Last I heard, he was working at Union Prime in Manhattan. I doubt that’s still the case.
    If anyone knows of his whereabouts, let him know that we have lots of mail for him from child welfare services in Massachusetts.

  • cummintogetya

    check your cridit history and continue to watch it. Kaufman probably stole your idenity. He will think nothing of obtaining a loan by forging your name and using your idenity.
    best of luck

  • disgustedbydk

    Agreed….I would also check your checkbooks to make sure none of the checks are missing.

  • Anon. Vermonter

    I know about several of the situations mentioned in this piece and knew Dan for several years when he was in Boston and Burlington. He is slippery and any attempt to be “civic-minded” was only to gain trust. I am glad justice is being served. I’m just glad there were other people, besides me, that were willing to expose him for what he was doing…

  • anonymous

    Just for the record; Dan Kaufman didn’t close down
    South Wine & Bar, they were evicted by a judge’s
    ruling. Can’t wait for him to face the music back
    here in Boston….

  • cummintogetya

    Stand Corrected, Kaufman was locked out of South in late March or April, because of large decrepancies in the accounting logs. As far as the Devlins, monies were withheld do to the leaky roof, commercial water heater needing to be replaced, heating system defects not being corrected, broken resturaunt equipment that was to be covered by warentee, this all contributed to having a loss in business revenues…… these uncorrected defects far exceeded the revenues the landlord was seeking……

  • nabeguy

    Gee, DK is turning out to be the Bernie Madoff of the restaurant world.

  • anonymous

    Kaufman and company were evicted by a judge’s ruling and the locks were changed witnessed by a magistrate sent from the court. As far as defects, your source is wrong. First of all, the equipment was owned by Kaufman and was his responsibility for any problems, which I doubt were, because most of the equipment was only a couple of years old and this did not cause them a loss in business revenue, try the fact that he was stealing money, falsifying invoices, obtaining loans under fraudulent means, not paying employees, vendors, taxes, etc.

  • disgusted

    i recently dated him..and when i noticed that he lied to me about his last name i googled him and couldnt believe what i saw..he ised me for rides and money…he was very charming. he said he was staying with his aunt to help her with her rent..riiight. he was staying at her appartment in islip terrace on carlton ave. in long island…he makes me sick! i cant even begin to tell you all the lies and “weird” things he used to do…if you want anymore info..contact me

  • cummintogetya

    Hey Disgusted
    We need an address, to serve a warrent for Kaufmans arrest so he can be brought back to Massachusetts. I know there is a reward leading to his capture. If you know of his wearabouts i am sure, we would make good so that you collected on the reward money. I hope he did not get any personal information from you. My advise is check your credit history with the three credit bureaus to make sure he has not forged your name on any loan garauntees. If you are ok, put a fraud alert with one of the big three, they will notify the other agencys. You may want to do this for the 7 year period. Kaufman has used other peoples idenities several years after he has stolen there personal information.
    What alias was he using?

  • knowstoomuch

    Hey cummintogetya,

    I dated him as well and might have info. Let me know what you are looking for.

  • nabeguy

    Jeez, the woodwork is crawling with evidence of DK’s past d-bag activities. Forget Madoff, this guy’s looking more like an entree of Rasputin, tossed over a bed of Scott Peterson, accompanied by a slash-and-burn side of General Westmoreland. Man, the Devil must be working overtime to come up with a special place for Mr. Kaufman. Given his ego, he’ll probably take that as a compliment.

  • cummintogetya

    An address where he can be found. Any aliases that he may go by.

  • knowstoomuch

    where is a better place than here to give them?

  • cummingtogetya@gmail.com
  • cummintogetya

    Let me know what works for you?
    I am not sure this is the best forum to give out that information. I am sure he will skip town ahead of the Law if his current address is made known.
    My guess is that Kaufman reads these posts regularly.
    I can give you the DA’s number or a state police contact # if you are more comfortable with this.

  • jiker

    is DK around 40 or early 40’s with grayish hair and wears a hat? just curious if this is the same person i am thinking of.

  • cummintogetya

    Kaufman does have grey hair and would sometimes wear a Boston Red sox Cap. you can find a photo of him at this link,
    From the September 21st, 2006 edition of the Burlington Free Press: Do you know where he can be found and what aliases he is using?

  • The Where

    Mr. Cuming, your act bores me. Come clean already or get lost.

  • Zenfascist

    Please provide the contact information for the DA and state police. I have information I need to share.

  • jiker

    ok. thanks cummintogetya.

  • jiker

    yep, that’s him! thanks again cummintogetya.