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Cable TV Chef in Hot Water

November 3, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ The chef of the cable TV show ``Ruggerio to Go″ has been charged with cooking up a scheme to inflate credit card charges at his Manhattan restaurant.

David Ruggerio allegedly submitted fraudulent credit card payment requests that had bogus tips ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 added to the payment slips.

Ruggerio and his bookkeeper, Desmond Brusch, were charged Monday with second-degree grand larceny, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The problem has more to do with bad bookkeeping than any intentional wrongdoing, said the chef’s lawyer, Charles Carnesi. Ruggerio, 36, is ``an excellent chef and an excellent author but not necessarily a very good businessman,″ he said.

According to a court complaint, Ruggerio sent the requests for payment to Paymentech Merchant Services Inc. of Dallas, the restaurant’s credit card processor. Paymentech then wired money into the restaurant’s account and was reimbursed by the customers’ banks and credit card companies, said the complaint.

After the money was wired into the restaurant’s account, the complaint said, checks were cashed against the funds. The checks allegedly were signed by Ruggerio, of Amity Harbor, and Brusch, 46, of Queens.

The pair tried to steal $225,000 but managed only about $190,000, said Assistant District Attorney Juan Merchan.

The bookkeeper did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The defendants were released without bail and are due back in court Feb. 14, 1999.

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