Hell’s Kitchen eateries Le Privé and Casa Del Toro, both owned by proprietor Sanjay Laforest, have been shuttered by the city and eviction notices have been posted on their 10th Avenue locations amid an ongoing allegation that Laforest and his mother embezzled over $17 million from NYC electric contractor Atlas Acon Electric.
The doors to both Le Privé and Casa Del Toro, next to each other on 10th Avenue between W44/45th Streets, were locked and covered in eviction notices on Friday morning, as a representative of the building’s owners told W42ST that the landlord was changing the locks. “Whereas on or around December 7, 2021, petitioning creditor Emmut Properties (the “Creditor” or “Landlord”) did commence the above involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy case (“the Bankruptcy Case”) against involuntary debtor Sanjay Laforest (“Debtor” or “Tenant”).” read the eviction notice posted on the window. W42ST reached out to Emmut Properties for a statement and will update if we hear back.
In an official press release regarding the May 2021 embezzlement case, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York alleged that “Between at least 2013 and 2020, Sabitri Laforest, Garry Laforest, Tatiana Laforest and Sanjay Laforest used Sabitri Laforest’s position as the controller of an electrical contracting company (“Victim-1”) to embezzle over $17 million from Victim-1. The defendants used Sabitri Laforest’s access to Victim-1’s bank account to make payments to a charge card account that Tatiana Laforest opened. The defendants regularly charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to the account, all paid for each month using Victim-1’s money.”
They added: “The defendants used the charge card account to pay for, among other things, over $639,000 in air travel, over $242,000 in tickets for a New York City professional basketball team, over $250,000 in rent for two luxury apartments in Manhattan leased by Tatiana Laforest and Sanjay Laforest, over $100,000 in home improvements for a Florida home purchased by Sabitri Laforest and Garry Laforest, and a 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 and a 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1.”
“The defendants also laundered millions of dollars of the proceeds of their embezzlement scheme by transferring the money to other financial accounts controlled by themselves and their family members, and by making payments to a restaurant in Elmont, New York, owned by Sabitri Laforest and Garry Laforest, and a group of hospitality companies, including two Manhattan restaurants, owned by Sanjay Laforest,” wrote prosecutors.
The two restaurants in question — French brasserie Le Privé and Mexican eatery Casa Del Toro — were open, operating and posting on their social media as recently as the day prior, though as of Friday both Google listings showed the restaurants as permanently closed, Sanjay Laforest’s Instagram page had been deleted, while comments were marked limited on Le Privé and Casa Del Toro’s Instagram page.
Laforest was released on $1 million bail in 2021 and returned to operating both restaurants until their closure, even receiving $859,000 in PPP money during the COVID-19 pandemic. W42ST reached out to both eateries for a statement and received the following from each establishment.
A representative from Le Privé said: “Bonjour, We are sorry to announce that Le Privé is closed due to COVID and the months not being open. We want to say merci beaucoup for your continued support over our five-year run. It has been a pleasure to serve you and our community. Our soirées together have been such a memorable and touching experience. We will be back soon at another location. Please check our Instagram for updates! Merci Beaucoup, Le Privé.”
A statement from Casa Del Toro said: “To our valued customers and family, After three years of servicing this wonderful community we are sorry to announce that Casa Del Toro is closed. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support through the pandemic and beyond. We are grateful for your loyalty and patronage. Hope to see you soon at our future location.”
W42ST reached out for further clarification on the future locations mentioned in each statement and for elaboration on the status of the case against Laforest and received the following response from a representative of Casa Del Toro: “Unfortunately we cannot disclose our future location at this juncture. Sanjay Laforest will plead not guilty and his attorneys are working on a dismissal of the case.”