LOWER MANHATTAN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Eyewitness News has found that the owners of a group of popular, high-end Italian restaurants in New York City have been sued for wage theft by their former workers in at least 11 different class action lawsuits.
In the most recent lawsuit, a former cook at Adrienne's Pizzabar in Lower Manhattan, Alberto Baez, is suing the owners for not paying proper wages. The suit is against Frank Casano, Nick Angelis and restauranteur Peter Poulakakos.
Poulakakos is the owner of HPH hospitality group, which according to the company's website, owns 18 restaurants through New York City. Poulakakos' business partner, Paul Lamas, is also named in several of the class action lawsuits.
In a joint investigation with Hofstra University's online news site The Long Island Advocate, Eyewitness News has found that dozens of workers at several different restaurants have sued Angelis, Poulakakos, Harry Poulakakos, Poulakakos' son, Frank Casano and their companies, including Pier A Battery Park Associates, Pizza on Stone, Hip at Murray, Hanover Ventures Marketplace and JMP Ventures, which includes Harry's Italian Restaurant.
The lawsuits are all related to accusations of wage theft, including wage-skimming, not paying for overtime, deducting pay for lunch breaks, yet forcing workers to work through their breaks.
Eyewitness News found evidence of the lawsuits going back to at least 2011. In most cases, the workers settled.
Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne and Hofstra journalism professor Scott Brinton learned of the lawsuits while looking into a story regarding eight former workers of Nick's Pizza in Rockville Centre, which is owned by Angelis, who Angelis owes more than $283,000 in back wages.
The New York State Department of Labor - supported by the Nassau County Supreme Court - ordered Angelis in 2011 to pay the workers, yet still, he has not.
When Eyewitness News aired the story in September, the DOL said it was actively working on the case.
In an email to Eyewitness News Friday, the department said it is taking steps to collect the money from Angelis, but would not discuss specifics as not to jeopardize those efforts.
The attorneys in the Adrienne's Pizzabar case were in federal court Friday in Lower Manhattan. The hearing was intended to force the attorney for Casano, Poulakakos and Angelis to produce documents which Baez's lawyer has been asking for since the summer.
Anne Seelig, the attorney for Baez, said at 1:30 a.m. - nine hours before the hearing - she received documents from the plaintiffs. She said she and her team didn't have time to review all the documents before the hearing.
Judge Jennifer Willis ordered Seelig of Lee Litigation Group and the men's attorney, Wayne Scott Kreger, to send her a letter next Friday to assure her that Baez's lawyer has received everything she has requested from Kreger.
Willis said if Seelig could not assure the judge by next Friday that she had received all the documents, Willis would consider sanctions against Kreger.
Kreger would not discuss the wage theft allegations with investigative reporter Kristin Thorne as he left the courthouse.
Seelig would not discuss Baez's case with Eyewitness News either, only saying she would have no comment.
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