NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The owner of a shuttered reBar catering hall, which abruptly closed and left dozens of couples without a wedding venue, was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for tax fraud Monday.
As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, Jason Stevens was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty last month to tax fraud and grand larceny charges. The case was not related to the closing of the venue in DUMBO, Brooklyn, but numerous brides and grooms felt a sense of justice.
Camille Hlakva’s July 12 wedding ended up being picture perfect, but the planning for the big day was a disaster.
“I can’t believe I’m crying right now,” Hlakva said outside Stevens’ court hearing.
Hlakva and her new husband were among more than 100 couples who put down hefty deposits for weddings at reBar. But then in May, it suddenly shut down.
Hlavka lost her $18,000 deposit.
“This was a very special day, and he stole a piece of yourself that you’ll never actually get back,” she said.
Hlavka and a handful of other jilted brides and grooms came to the courtroom for Stevens’ sentencing hearing.
Stevens pleaded guilty to skimming, or not collecting, more than $1 million in sales taxes — a serious state offense. He addressed the court at the hearing.
“Your honor, I completely failed the trust that was placed in me by my friends and family, New York State and New York City, and the Borough of Brooklyn, and most importantly, my employees and my customers,” Stevens said. “I have nothing left to give but an apology. But from the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry.
The couples did not buy it.
“Seeing him going to jail for a while – that, that’s good; that’s closure,” said newlywed Jennifer Cabrera.
“He may say he’s sorry but, it’s still good to see him taken away in handcuffs, so victory for us,” Hlavka said.
“I’m not going to deny that was nice,” added groom Kevin Baoolal.
Some of the brides told CBS 2’s Brown they considered suing Stevens to get back their money, but that it was difficult to find anyone to take their case because they were told there was really no money available to recover.
“He’s doing his thing. We got married. We had a perfect day. We’re going to move on with our lives,” said newlywed Kitoh Grey.
Stevens signed an agreement with the New York State Attorney General’s office, agreeing to repay more than $1 million to the jilted couples. The couples said they will believe that when they see it.
Prosecutors said Stevens will not face criminal charges for jilting the couples.
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