Johnny and Robert Petrosyants, the faces of Midtown’s Osteria La Baia and a handful of other restaurants across the city, are in hot water over allegations of unpaid debts and broken business deals since they pleaded guilty to financial crimes in 2014, according to an investigation published by the New York Times on Monday.
The twin brothers, who were convicted of a felony “for their roles in a check-cashing scheme designed to evade anti-money laundering reporting requirements,” according to the Department of Justice, are outspoken friends of mayor Eric Adams and have helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for his campaign through fundraising events and other means, the Times reports. Adams, who dined at the siblings’ West 52nd Street restaurant 14 times in one month this summer, has repeatedly defended their friendship.
Since their convictions, Johnny, whose legal name is Zhan, and Robert Petrosyants have been investigated for allegedly misusing funds — including federal Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling more than $1.2 million — and sued for breaking contracts with investors, landlords, and lenders, the Times reports. Businesses connected to the brothers owe at least $1.7 million in unpaid taxes, penalties, and interests, and they have been accused of owing another $1.5 million in unpaid rent.
According to the investigation, the brothers also appear to have obscured their roles in the businesses they run, identifying themselves as owners to some customers, employees, and state departments, while denying their involvement to others, including the New York State Liquor Authority, which prohibits individuals convicted of felonies from owning businesses that serve alcohol.
“They have left their names off official documents in nearly every venture since their convictions, controlling restaurants opened in the names of others,” the Times reports.
The allegations concern at least 10 different restaurants over the last decade, according to the Times, including one instance in which the twins scammed a 35-year-old businessman out of $350,000 — his life savings.
Through it all, the New York mayor has maintained a tight-knit relationship with the brothers, meeting with them at members-only Noho club Zero Bond and occasionally staying overnight at their Upper East Side Trump Tower digs, Politico reported in August.
A spokesperson for the mayor tells the Times that Adams had no knowledge of the brothers’ business proceeds and did not discuss business with them. Eater has contacted the mayor’s office for more information.
The New York City mayor has at times surrounded himself with individuals who have checkered pasts. Adams, who met Johnny and Robert Petrosyants as a state senator while dining at a Brooklyn restaurant they operated at the time, has defended his relationship with the brothers. He claims he became a “mentor” to them following their convictions in 2014, according to the Times.
The brothers’ political connections in the Adams administration extend to Frank Carone, the mayor’s chief of staff, who they recruited in 2019 to help finance the acquisition of a laboratory in Texas. The venture later collapsed, according to the Times, costing Carone and other investors “significant money.”
In February, Carone was subpoenaed in a $4.5 million federal civil racketeering lawsuit over alleged fraudulent insurance charges, Bloomberg reported at the time. Carone announced he’s leaving City Hall by the end of the year to run the mayor’s reelection campaign.
The latest wave of allegations comes following Brooklyn pizzeria Forno Rosso being seized earlier this year by the State Department of Taxation and Finance over almost $400,000 in unpaid taxes, the New York Daily News reported. A 2016 lawsuit against the restaurant identifies the Petrosyants brothers as partial owners of the pizzeria; Akiva Ofshtein, a Brooklyn lawyer, told the publication that he was the sole owner at the time.
Adams attended the ribbon cutting for the pizzeria in 2014.
Additional reporting by Melissa McCart.