A federal judge has issued an arrest warrant for the former owner of Embeya, alleging that Attila Gyulai committed more than $300,000 in wire fraud and made other illegal financial transactions pertaining to his shuttered West Loop restaurant. He also allegedly lied to his former chef so he wouldn’t have to properly pay him and saddled him with a $1 million loan after leaving the country. The crimes happened over the course of six years, according to a complaint filed Monday by the FBI. Embeya closed in 2016, and Gyulai and wife Komal Patel have been AWOL, leaving a trail of debt stateside.
Embeya opened in 2012 and received critical acclaim under chef Thai Dang for his creative Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant’s name was based on a childhood nickname Dang received while growing up in Vietnam; it was a deeply personal project for Dang. His wife, Danielle Dang, served as Embeya’s beverage director and marketing manager. According to the 20-page complaint, they were fired in 2014 from Embeya after Danielle Dang discovered that the restaurant made $3 million in gross revenue. Neither Thai Dang nor his brother, Kenny, who together owned 43.5 percent of the restaurant, received their proper share in payments from that revenue, according to federal officials. Gyulai and Patel owned a combined 56.5 percent of Embeya and fired the Dangs after they confronted them over the discrepancy, according to the complaint.
Gyulai routinely hid financial records and moved money to his personal accounts, according the complaint. He also stuck the Dangs with nearly $1 million in debt thanks to a loan. Gyulai secretly put up Kenny Dang’s shares from Embeya as collateral with the bank, according to the complaint. Thai and Danielle Dang have since gone on to open HaiSous, a Vietnamese restaurant in Pilsen, along with a complementary coffee/snack shop and bar, Cà Phê Dá.
The Dangs were only identified as “Shareholder A,” “Shareholders A’s wife,” and “Shareholder B” in the complaint. Danielle Dang, via text, called the complaint and warrant “great news.” They’ve been seeking justice since Gyulai and Patel left the country. Crain’s first broke the story, and reported the couple had been last known to be living in Tullum, Mexico. Charges against Patel are pending, Danielle Dang added.
In May, a civil lawsuit filed by Dang and his brother against Gyulai and the holding company brought a $1.4 million judgement in favor of the Dangs. That case, according to the federal complaint, contained allegations of “breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and conversion.”
It’s just another chapter in the Embeya saga. Take a look at the complaint against Gyuai below.