Monday night brought about a clear call from the Revere City Council that they want to pursue criminal charges against the Mt. Vernon at the Wharf restaurant for allegedly scamming them with a $33,000 check in order to keep its licenses.
Councillor Tony Zambuto called for the City to file a criminal complaint in Chelsea District Court against the Mt. Vernon corporation for fraud/larceny by check. The restaurant company closed down their Revere and Lynnfield establishments abruptly early last week, leaving many vendors allegedly unpaid and with no recourse.
“This motion was put in because I don’t want to see someone pay their water bill fraudulently and get away with doing something like this,” he said. “I want to make it clear though that the City is not on the hook for any of this money. The City will be made whole…What they did is criminal and hopefully they will be prosecuted for it.”
The motion passed 10-0 on a roll call vote. Councillor Stephen Reardon was absent from the vote.
The charge stems from the fact that the Mt. Vernon at the Wharf paid the City a $33,000 check for an outstanding water bill last December. They made that payment in order to renew all of their operating licenses with the License Commission.
However, it appears that once they received their licenses, they stopped payment on the check – leaving the $33,000 balance still unpaid.
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said he would go along with the criminal complaint if the Council felt it was necessary, which they obviously did.
“The City could conceivably take out a criminal complaint for larceny by check,” said the Mayor. “Frankly, whether the DA is going to put any effort into chasing a defunct corporation is questionable. If the Council wants to send that message, though, I’m happy to do that.”
Some, however, feel that the second part of this story is the most troublesome.
That second part involves the fact that despite the check not passing, City financial officials did not notify the License Commission about the situation for 10 full months.
Councillor Bob Haas said the situation was unprecedented and signified that the system is broken.
“This is such a major issue confronting us,” said Haas. “I can’t believe this happened to Revere. No matter where you go in Revere, people are asking, ‘How did this happen?’ This was the breakdown of a system that we’re always saying it so perfect. Apparently, it isn’t…The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. This is major as far as I’m concerned.”
Also appearing at the Council meeting on Monday night was License Commission Chair Tom Henneberry, who defended his board’s involvement in the situation.
He said the Commission only found out three weeks ago about the negligent payment by the Mt. Vernon.
“Before that time I had no knowledge of this whatsoever,” said Henneberry. “Why or how that information wasn’t indicated to the Commission, I don’t know. It came to me from Mr. [George] Anzuoni two or three weeks ago. Once we knew about it, we put it on our agenda and suspended their licenses.”
Just about every other councillor spoke against the way the Mt. Vernon closed up, and Councillor Arthur Guinasso said that the City has an interest in pursuing justice for local businesses that were stiffed.
One business is the Pines River Fish Market on American Legion Highway, which – according to its owner – was shorted nearly $100,000 for lobsters.
“A lot of people in our community are financially hurt by this,” said Guinasso. “We have an interest in this. We have an interest in getting justice for people in our community who were hurt. There are several Revere companies whose businesses were hurt.”
Two other motions were on the docket Monday night dealing with the Mt. Vernon’s closure.
One by Council President John Powers passed unanimously. It called for the City’s Financial Departments to immediately put a check and balance in place that would require all departments to be notified when a check has bounced or been cancelled. That would prevent people from getting permits or licenses by using the same scheme.
Another measure, by Zambuto, calls for all licenses, applications and renewals to be paid for by certified check. That motion was sent to Ways and Means Committee, as some believed this is already being done.
The Criminal Complaint will be filed in Chelsea District Court and will likely go before a Clerk Magistrate at some point soon.