MANHATTAN — An investor in Grand Street’s defunct eatery The Comfort said she was cheated out of $75,000 when the restaurant’s owner failed to tell her he owed about $700,000 in back taxes, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Judith Dauber cut a big check in 2014 to Ira Freehof and and was never reimbursed after the Lower East Side eatery suddenly shuttered in 2015 after owing the landlord more than $100,000 in rent, which was first reported by Bowery Boogie.
"Ms. Dauber thought she was investing in a sister restaurant to the Comfort Diner’s 45th Street location," her lawyer, Lee Jacobs, said in a statement. "Her investment was squandered by the Defendants with no explanation as to what happened to it. Ms. Dauber looks forward to her day in Court to vindicate her rights."
Freehof was aware of his tax situation before seeking investors, the lawyer said in the suit.
The state issued warrants against the restaurateur for at least $665,626 in unpaid taxes dating back to 2004, according to public records.
“Prior to the execution of the June 12, 2014 Agreement, Defendant Freehof knew that he was financially insolvent as he owed approximately $700,000.00 in default tax payments to the State of New York,” the suit said.
Freehof also described himself as the owner of The Comfort Diner on East 45th Street, but was possibly paid “as an off the books employee” in an effort to “avoid debtors from collecting against his assets,” the suit added.
A current owner of the retro-looking Midtown diner said he and his partner took over the lease to the restaurant after it closed in 2011.
Freehof worked with them one day a week for the first few weeks the restaurant was open before leaving, Tarek Soliman told DNAinfo New York, adding that he was not an investor in the Grand Street location and that it was not affiliated with the East 45th Street diner.
Freehof had claimed he reopened the The Comfort Diner with Soliman and his partner, Tarek Abozeid, according to a report in Crain's New York from March 25, 2011.
Freehof was listed as the chief executive officer of a corporation controlling The Comfort Diner, which was dissolved in 2009, according to Department of State records.
Soliman and Abozeid were both named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also named Sandra Cobden, who was listed as an agent for the Grand Street location's LLC and shares an address with Freehof, according to state records.
Dauber is seeking $75,000 plus legal fees; accounting information for both the failed Grand Street restaurant and East 54th Street diner; and for Freehof to turn over information on all his "concealed" assets and debts, according to the lawsuit.
Multiple calls to Freehof's Long Island home were not answered.
His Facebook page still has him listed as working at the Comfort Diner.