Eleven months after his arrest in Spain where he was a fugitive, former Embeya owner Attila Gyulai has pled guilty to wire fraud. Gyulai entered his plea Thursday morning and will await sentencing on February 25, according to both the Sun-Times and the Tribune. Gyulai’s former business partners, chef Thai and Danielle Dang (HaiSous) accused him of bilking them of at least $300,000 while the upscale West Loop Vietnamese restaurant was open on Randolph Restaurant Row.
Gyulai faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $600,000. The Dangs, who worked at Embeya (the restaurant’s name comes from Thai Dang’s childhood nickname) accuse Gyulai of making unauthorized payments to himself using the restaurant’s accounts.
While he pled guilty in court on Thursday, Gyulai’s defense argued about the amount he allegedly swindled. They said it was $14,992, not the more than $300,000 amount the Dangs and federal prosecutors claim. The Dangs filed a lawsuit against Gyulai in 2016. A judge awarded the Dangs $1.4 million in the case in May 2017, according to the Sun-Times.
The Dangs weren’t in court, but Danielle Dang told Eater Chicago that they suspect Gyulai pled guilty to avoid a long trial. That had the potential to bring in other aspects of wrongdoing into the court record, as well as incriminate Gyulai’s wife. The whereabouts of Komal Patel are unknown. She left the country, along with Gyulai and their children, after Embeya closed in 2016. Dang was fired from Embeya in 2015, two years after it opened and became one of the best new restaurants in America. The space has since become Bellemore.
Gyulai hasn’t brokered a deal with prosecutors, according to the Tribune, but that doesn’t mean he won’t.
“Guilty means he will try to plea down,” Danielle Dang said.
Gyulai was extradited back to America in June. However, prosecutors on Thursday said he traveled to South America before Thursday’s court date. His attorneys told the court that Gyulai wasn’t trying to escape prosecution when he left the country in 2016, but that he was visiting sick relatives.