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Fugitive Embeya Owner Wanted by FBI Found in Spain

Attila Gyulai had fled the country after swindling money from chef Thai Dang

Inside a fancy restaurant.
Attila Gyulai stands in the background at Embeya.
Jason Little/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Ten months after a federal judge issued an arrest warrant for the former owner of Embeya — who was wanted for swindling his former chef — authorities have apprehended the fugitive in Spain, according to a Spanish newspaper. Las Provincias reported on Saturday that 46-year-old Attila Gyulai was arrested and detained in Valencia, Spain where he was on a 10-day Christmas vacation, traveling from Ecuador.

Gyulai and wife Komal Patel had vanished after Embeya — an acclaimed West Loop restaurant — closed in 2016. Gyulai had been a fugitive charged with $300,000 of wire fraud.

A judge ruled in March 2016 that Gyulai deceived his former business partners at Embeya and left them with $1 million in loan debts. Embeya, an upscale restaurant serving Vietnamese and Pan Asian cuisine, got its name from founding chef Thai Dang. It was a childhood nickname Dang received growing up in Vietnam; the restaurant was a personal venture for the chef. But matters deteriorated between Dang and Gyulai. Gyulai fired Dang in 2015. Dang and his brother were partners in the restaurant and left to pay off the loan and other fees. The Dangs filed two lawsuits against Gyulai and won. A judge ruled Gyulai made several illegal payments to himself using Embeya funds. Gyulai had cheated the Dangs of at least $300,000 and left the country as soon as he transferred funds, according to the FBI.

Thai Dang and his wife Danielle Dang — who also worked at Embeya — were recovering after their departures from the restaurant. In June 2017, the couple opened HaiSous in Pilsen. Thai Dang told Crain’s that he was surprised that Gyulai was tracked down this quickly. Danielle Dang emailed Eater on Wednesday morning and wrote that they’ve spoke with the FBI who told them they’ll have a trial for Gyulai after he’s extradited. However, the process to return him to America could take time. Danielle Dang said Gyulai and Patel were spotted in Canada, Mexico, and Ecuador. They have no word on Patel and her children’s current whereabouts. Before HaiSous opened, the Dangs said they expected Patel would face her own criminal charges in connection to Embeya. None have been filed yet.

Embeya has since been replaced by Bellemore at 564 W. Randolph Street. HaiSous has since carved out a spot in Pilsen as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city, and the Dangs also opened a casual cafe, Cà Phê Đá, next door. The FBI, affected by the holidays and the government shutdown, didn’t immediately respond for comment.


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