Pure Food and Wine workers rally for missing pay – again

Workers lined up outside the restaurant last Thursday, saying they’re missing back pay while the owner is nowhere to be found. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Workers lined up outside the restaurant last Thursday, saying they’re missing back pay while the owner is nowhere to be found. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Pure Food and Wine owner Sarma Melngailis has mastered the art of “ghosting.”

The slang term has come to refer to one half of a romantic couple that breaks off the relationship by disappearing with no explanation, turning into a “ghost.” But while the practice is seen as rude and disrespectful in those cases, in Melngailis’s case it includes alleged wage theft.

The owner of the raw food restaurant on Irving Place vanished once before, with employees saying that she had not paid them for almost a month at the beginning of the year. Employees said at the time that no one had been able to contact Melngailis and when workers held a rally outside the restaurant last Thursday with some not being paid for the last two weeks, the owner and raw food mogul was similarly missing. Bartender and representative for the employees’ newly-formed union Kevin Woods said on Monday that she hasn’t even been in touch with her lawyer recently.

Town & Village reported at the beginning of the year that workers at the restaurant sued Melngailis because of the missed wages in January but this is actually the third time the restaurant has missed payroll. Woods said that the first time was during a month last summer but none of the workers went public with the information at that point. Bartender Daniel Schubmehl said they had communication from Melngailis that it was a bank issue and were assured it would be fine. Gothamist noted that the employees ended up being paid gradually from the restaurant’s petty cash and there were no more payroll problems until the issues in the winter.

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Police Watch:

The man wanted for two robberies at a Flatiron HSBC Bank was arrested in Queens on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. Leonid Kaziyev, 38, was caught by an FBI-NYPD task force. The FBI said that he is responsible for stealing $30,000 in three armed robberies in the last six months, two of which took place last December and this past June in the HSBC location at 145 Fifth Avenue, where he allegedly brandished a firearm and escaped with over $10,000 in cash each time.
The New York Daily News reported that police collected a cigarette butt from the scene of the second alleged robbery, which took place at a Bank of America on Broadway at West 63rd Street, and a DNA match helped law enforcement catch the suspect.

The Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in locating the three men wanted in connection with a burglary that occurred within the confines of the 13th Precinct. On Saturday, July 18 around 2:36 a.m., the male suspects entered the basement of 102 East 25th Street and proceeded to drill into the ceiling and enter the Citibank located at 333 Park Avenue South. The suspects attempted to then cut into the ATMs inside the bank, but were unsuccessful and fled with no proceeds.
Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting TIP577 and their tips to 274637 (CRIMES).

Police arrested 45-year-old Herman Diaz for grand larceny at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 25th Street last Saturday at 1:41 a.m. Diaz allegedly followed the victim for several blocks and a witness said that he swiped the victim’s wallet from his pocket. A second witness who saw the incident intervened and recovered the wallet and police said that Diaz then fled north in the middle of Lexington Avenue. When police approached him, he allegedly tried to discard the stolen cash on the sidewalk while repeating, “I got no money, I didn’t get any money, I got no money.” Police said that after he was searched, he was found to be in possession of stolen cash and following a strip search at the 13th Precinct cell bathroom, $60 was allegedly recovered from Diaz’s underwear.

Police arrested five teenagers for robbery in front of Bellevue Hospital last Sunday at 1:55 a.m. The victim told police that she was standing in front of the hospital when a group of teenagers approached her and allegedly punched her in the face and stole her phone. She said that she was using the phone at the time and the teens allegedly grabbed the phone after she fell to the ground when she was punched. Nineteen-year-old Destiny Torres was arrested and the names of the four others are being withheld due to their age.

Police are asking for the public’s assistance in finding and identifying a man who forcefully mugged a woman on Sunday, July 5, at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 35th Street. The victim, who’s 18, was walking alone at around 4:20 a.m. when the man snuck up behind her, pushed her onto to the ground and then forcefully stole her purse before fleeing along Madison Avenue. A photo of the suspect was later attained as he attempted to use the victim’s credit card at a Walgreens on West 42nd street.
The suspect is described as an adult male Hispanic, approximately 6’3” tall with short dark hair. He was last seen wearing grey sweatpants, a white baseball cap, a tan t-shirt, black sneakers and a black backpack.
Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by visiting the Crime Stoppers website. All calls are strictly confidential.

Police arrested 47-year-old Peter Marquez for grand larceny in front of 4 East 28th Street last Sunday at 2:18 p.m. The victim was walking down the street counting money when Marquez allegedly walked up to him and grabbed the $80 from his hands.

Two men were arrested for public drinking in front of 344 East 28th Street last Wednesday at 9:59 p.m. David Ramos, 47, was allegedly drinking a bottle of Corona on the sidewalk and police said that Fernando Alvarez, 44, was drinking from a bottle of New Amsterdam vodka. The two men were charged with an unclassified violation. Police said that Ramos was found to have an open investigation card and Alvarez had an active warrant.

Police arrested 21-year-old Suzielin Frade for assault of a peace officer inside Beth Israel at 281 First Avenue last Thursday at 3:38 a.m. The victim was triaging Frade when she allegedly punched the nurse in the face. The assault caused redness and swelling and the victim was treated at Beth Israel.

Police arrested 51-year-old Phillip Trotman-Christiani for menacing in front of 200 East 15th Street last Thursday at 9:19 a.m. A victim flagged down an officer and said that Trotman-Christiani had a knife. The suspect then ran east on East 15th Street, away from police, and allegedly threw an orange box cutter across the street. It was recovered by a witness and two victims said that Trotman-Christiani had allegedly waved the box cutter at them in a threatening manner.

Police arrested 44-year-old Venus Adams inside the 13th Precinct last Thursday for robbery. Adams had allegedly taken 21 pairs of jeans from the Gap at 122 Fifth Avenue and when an employee tried to stop her from leaving without paying, police said that she grabbed the employee by the neck, pepper sprayed her in the face and then fled. According to court documents, the incident occurred on March 8, 2013.

Nelson Lockett, 49, was arrested for grand larceny at the corner of Second Avenue and East 29th Street last Thursday at 6:21 p.m. The victim flagged down police and said that Lockett had taken property out of her purse at the corner of Third Avenue and East 29th Street. Officers spotted him on East 29th Street after the victim pointed him out and when they got out of their vehicle, Lockett allegedly began to run towards Second Avenue and was arrested at the corner.

Police arrested 21-year-old Jose Rosa for possession of marijuana in front of 522 East 20th Street last Friday at 12:37 a.m. Police said that they spotted Rosa in between vehicles in a larceny-prone location and after searching him, found that he was in possession of alleged marijuana.

Anelle Mendez, 28, was arrested for petit larceny inside the Bed Bath & Beyond at 620 Sixth Avenue last Monday at 9:30 p.m. Police said that throughout numerous dates, Mendez stole cash from the registers at store.