The former owner of a West Loop restaurant that opened to rave reviews in 2012 won’t serve any additional time behind bars in connection with his fraud conviction, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber said that while looting $125,000 from the now-shuttered Embeya restaurant was certainly “not negligible,” it was also not among the “most serious” fraud cases that end up at the Dirksen Building.
Leinenweber sentenced Attila Gyulai to “time served” — he’s been locked up for about five months. He also must serve three years of probation and the judge ordered him to pay $125,000 in restitution.
Gyulai admitted making mistakes, but said the case stemmed from a business “dispute” that made headlines and ultimately led to the restaurant failing.
“I paid a big price,” Gyulai, 47, told Leinenweber. “I have not seen my children in 14 months. I lost my home.”
Gyulai opened the restaurant, in the 500 block of West Randolph, in September 2012. It closed suddenly less than four years later. Gyulai left the United States about the same time.
Gyulai was arrested in Spain in December 2018, with prosecutors alleging he defrauded the minority shareholders of Embeya by lying about his use of money generated by the business. In total, Gyulai spent about five months in jail — in Spain and at the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown.
Late last year, Gyulai pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud.
Prosecutors on Tuesday had argued for a year in prison.
“I’m not here to say Mr. Gyulai is a hardened criminal or a terrible person,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Getter. Still, he noted, the restaurant’s former chef, Thai Dang, is continuing to make monthly $9,000 payments on the original bank loan for the restaurant.
Dang, who has since opened a restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood, sat in the courtroom gallery Tuesday. He said he has since rebuilt his life.
After the sentencing, he flashed a smile at his former partner.
“For me, it takes more effort to show hate,” Dang explained. “I’m happy with what I have, I’m happy I rebuilt.”