Investigators: Consultant Distributed Phony Restaurant Grading Certificates
NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) – A restaurant consultant got an “A” for effort, but investigators said that he got an “F” for his attempt to pull off an alleged restaurant grading scam.
“A” rating certificates are so coveted that some restaurants have been willing to spend thousands of dollars on consultants to help them make the grade.
Recently the corruption fighters at the city’s Department of Investigation busted a consultant who was allegedly creating phony “A” certificates using a color printer.
The Department of Investigation said that Telly’s Taverna in Astoria was one of the victims of consultant Tommy Kountis.
Kountis, 32, used his twitter account to ask eateries if they wanted help dealing with the Department of Health.
Bistro 237 on Lexington contacted Kountis and was also victimized according to the Department of Investigation.
A manager at Bistro 237 told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello that Kountis promised to do all of the work necessary to appeal the violations that prevented them from getting an “A”.
A report by the Department of Investigation alleges that Kountis told nine different restaurant owners that he had reduced their health code violations and provided them with falsely created color photocopies of an “A” grade card.
In many cases victims claimed that Kountis had hand delivered the new certificates and hung them in the window himself.
The certificates can be easily forged with a color printer but lack the embossed “NYC” logo that makes them official.
Diners were concerned by the alleged scam.
“It’s concerning, it’s definitely concerning,” Jessica Pagano said.
“There’s always somebody trying to make money off someone else, right?” Kathy Hughes added.
Kounits allegedly charged each business a couple of hundred dollars. All of the restaurants have been reinspected and the grades in the windows are the real deal.
Kountis denied selling the fake grades which were found during a sweep of more than 150 restaurants in the spring.
Investigators said that fraud is a persistent problem and that two restaurant workers were busted for trying to bribe an inspector for an “A”.
Since 2010, 17 people have been arrested for attempted bribery.
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