Hell’s Kitchen restaurants Private and Casa del Toroboth owned by owner Sanjay Laforest, were shut down by the city and eviction notices were posted at their 10th Avenue locations amid an ongoing allegation that Laforest and his mother embezzled more than $17 million dollars from New York electrical contractor Atlas Acon Electric.
The doors of Privé and Casa Del Toro, side by side on 10th Avenue between W44/45th streets, were locked and covered with eviction notices Friday morning, as a representative of the owners of the building told W42ST that the owner was changing the locks. “Whereas on or about December 7, 2021, Petitioner Creditor Emmut Properties (the “Creditor” or “Owner”) commenced the above Chapter 7 Involuntary Bankruptcy Case (“the Bankruptcy Case”) ) against involuntary debtor Sanjay Laforest (“Debtor” or “Tenant”).” read the eviction notice posted on the window. W42ST has contacted Emmut Properties for a statement and will update if we receive a response.
In an official Press release Regarding the May 2021 embezzlement case, prosecutors for the Southern District of New York alleged that “between at least 2013 and 2020, Sabitri Laforest, Garry Laforest, Tatiana Laforest and Sanjay Laforest used the position of Sabitri Laforest as a comptroller of an electricity company (“Victim-1”) to embezzle over $17 million from Victim-1. The defendants used Sabitri Laforest’s access to Victim-1’s bank account to make payments to a payment card account opened by Tatiana Laforest. The defendants routinely debited hundreds of thousands of dollars from the account, all paid monthly with Victim-1’s money.
They added: “Defendants used the credit card account to pay for, among other things, more than $639,000 in air travel, more than $242,000 in tickets to a New York professional basketball team, more than $250,000 in rent for two luxury Manhattan apartments rented by Tatiana Laforest and Sanjay Laforest, more than $100,000 in home renovations for a Florida home purchased by Sabitri Laforest and Garry Laforest, and a Ford Shelby GT500 2020 and a 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1.”
“The defendants also laundered millions of dollars from the proceeds of their embezzlement scheme by transferring the money to other financial accounts controlled by them and their family members, and making payments to a restaurant in Elmont, New York, owned by Sabitri Laforest and Garry. Laforest, and a group of hotel companies, including two Manhattan restaurants, owned by Sanjay Laforest,” prosecutors wrote.
The two restaurants in question — the French brasserie Le Privé and the Mexican restaurant Casa Del Toro — were open, operating and post on their social media as recently as the day beforealthough on Friday both Google listings said the restaurants were permanently closed, Sanjay Laforest’s Instagram page had been removed, while reviews were marked as limited on Le Privé’s and Casa Del Toro’s Instagram page.
Laforest was released on $1 million bail in 2021 and took over the operation of the two restaurants until they were closed, even receiving $859,000 in PPP during the COVID-19 pandemic. W42ST contacted both restaurants for a statement and received the following from each establishment.
A representative from Le Privé said: “Hello, We are sorry to announce that Le Privé is closed due to COVID and months are not open. We want to say thank you so much for your continued support over our five-year run. It was a pleasure to serve you and our community. Our evenings together were a memorable and touching experience. We will be back soon to another place. Please check our Instagram for updates! Thank you very much, Private.
A statement from Casa Del Toro said: “To our valued customers and family, after three years of serving this wonderful community, we are sorry to announce that Casa Del Toro is closed. We would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support throughout the pandemic and beyond. We thank you for your loyalty and patronage. Hope to see you soon in our future location.”
W42ST requested further clarification on the future locations mentioned in each statement and clarification on the status of the case against Laforest and received the following response from a Casa Del Toro representative: “Unfortunately, we cannot disclose our future location at this point. Sanjay Laforest will plead not guilty and his lawyers are working on a dismissal of the case.