The feds have charged the former owner of a successful West Loop restaurant with wire fraud and accused him of ripping off his fellow investors to the tune of $300,000.
An arrest warrant was also filed Monday for Attila Gyulai, who with his wife controlled Embeya, a modern Asian restaurant in the 500 block of West Randolph. It opened in September 2012 to excellent reviews but suddenly shuttered in June 2016.
The attorney representing the restaurant’s former executive chef, Thai Dang, called it “exciting news.” Mike Leonard of Leonard Meyer LLP said there are more than $1 million in outstanding civil judgments against Gyulai.
“It looks like there’s going to be some justice,” Leonard said.
Leonard later added by email that Dang and his wife, who now run HaiSous in Pilsen, are “excited and feel a great sense of vindication.” Meanwhile, an attorney for Gyulai could not be reached. He and his wife allegedly fled the country in 2016, defaulting on their mortgage and abandoning their car in the street.
The feds say Gyulai and his wife were seen taking lavish personal vacations and wearing expensive clothing while Embeya shareholders like Dang waited in vain to reap the benefits of Embeya’s success.
When Dang and his wife, Danielle, began to challenge Gyulai over the restaurant’s profits, Gyulai fired them, according to a 20-page criminal complaint against Gyulai. Dang then sued for $90,000 in unpaid wages and found through his lawsuit that Gyulai had been stealing money, the feds say.
Dang also learned that his brother’s property had been used as collateral for a $985,000 loan used to fund the restaurant. Though Dang signed the loan documents, he told the feds he did not fully understand them and Gyulai did not warn him.
Federal authorities say they looked into Gyulai’s dealings and found more than $300,000 in improper transactions. First, in early 2014, they said Gyulai paid $140,000 to himself and his wife as part of a disbursement to shareholders for which the couple didn’t qualify.
Also in 2014, Gyulai allegedly took $65,000 from the restaurant’s accounts and put it in his own. The feds say that money bounced back and forth between Gyulai’s account and one in Hungary before he withdrew $15,000 cash and put $55,000 in an E-Trade account.
Finally, Gyulai allegedly took another $15,000 from the restaurant in January 2016 and put it in a personal E-Trade account. Then, days before Embeya finally closed, they said he took $103,750, put it in his personal account and then wired most of it to Canada.