QUEENS — Three restaurateurs were arrested over Monday and Tuesday for bribing city monitors to not penalize them for violations including flies, handling food without gloves and keeping a lizard in a fish tank, officials said.
Morie Kabba of The Bronx was arrested Monday while Jonathan Niranjan and Mohammad Safi, who run establishments in Queens, were arrested Tuesday, according to Department of Investigation officials. They all face bribery charges and up to seven years behind bars, officials said.
"DOI's investigation found these defendants were as dirty as their restaurants," said Mark Peters, the DOI commissioner.
"In New York City, you can't clean up a dirty restaurant with a bribe. DOI will continue to pursue unscrupulous business owners and operators who try to corrupt city employees for their own interests," Peters said.
In each investigation, the men first bribed inspectors with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who refused the money, but reported it to DOI which then sent undercover officers to each restaurant.
The undercover inspectors, spotted uncovered garbage cans, multiple flies and food residue on the floor of Jagana Family Kennedy Fried Chicken at 1375 Boston Road in Morrisania in October and reported it to Kabba, 42, officials said.
Kabba in turn gave the investigator $160, officials said.
Kabba was arraigned Monday and pleaded not guilty, officials said. He was released and due back in court on Jan. 17, 2017, officials said.
Similarly, a health inspector spotted an aquarium with a lizard inside Amazura, a music venue at 91-12 144th Place in Jamaica, and told Niranjan, 28, he'd have to remove it, officials said. Niranjan then told the inspector he forgot something in the bathroom, prompting the inspector to return inside and find "a wad of cash" on top of the sink, officials said.
An undercover inspector then visited the establishment in August and spotted a broken sink faucet, many flies and food handlers not using gloves, officials said. Niranjan then gave the undercover $300 in cash to "save him on some of the violations," officials said.
Undercover investigators in May also spotted uncovered garbage cans, a broken sink faucet and staff touching food with bare hands inside Farm Fried N Curry Chicken at 120-20 Merrick Blvd. in South Jamaica, officials said.
The investigator told Safi, 62, who then handed over an envelope with $200 inside and asked to get an "A" rating despite the violations, officials said.