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Valenti’s: Where are they Now (Slight Return)

Remember yesterday, when I indicated that I didn’t know where they were? Well, I did know, but wasn’t at liberty to reveal their location  because of pending legal matters.

Well, they’re in the Dallas area and had been leasing kitchen space in a nursing facility. There was supposed to be a meeting yesterday to let the residents complain about the food coming out of that kitchen. In the meantime, as seen above, Valenti was arrested on the newly re-filed Midland County forgery charge and is being held in a Dallas County Jail on $10,000 bond. Now you know. Karma and whatnot. 


Valenti’s: The Eden FOIL

This is the final set of documents I’ve received pursuant to Freedom of Information Law requests, relating to the owners of the 2 1/2-star Valenti’s Restaurant. These are public records that are available to anyone. Out of an abundance of caution, I have redacted names and contact information of minors and some other individuals who have not been part of the general Valenti’s story.

And after reviewing these three municipalities’ FOILs, ask yourself: how many times have you had police involvement in your life since November of last year? Valenti’s: The Eden FOIL


Valenti’s: The West Seneca FOIL

Complaints of criminality against Terry Valenti and Lori Brocuglio – formerly of the late, unlamented, Okun 2 1/2 star-rated “Valenti’s Restaurant” – reached even into towns with which they were unaffiliated. After all, the couple lived in Eden and their restaurant was in North Tonawanda. So, why did I FOIL the West Seneca Police Records? 

Because Brocuglio’s “partner”, Melissa Janiszewski, lives there, and I thought there might be something on file.  I fully expected no hits, but instead I got two revealing pages. 

On January 18, 2012, Janiszewski contacted the West Seneca police to inform them that she had unexpectedly received in the mail a bill from Time Warner Cable for $211.99. It was interesting because Janiszewski doesn’t have a Time Warner Cable account in her name, and because it was for service to a residence at 9003 Gowanda State Road in Eden. Coincidentally, that is the address where Valenti and Brocuglio lived. 

Brocuglio had filed an earlier police report against Janiszewski, claiming that she had property belonging to her. The police took no action, as it was a civil matter and not any sort of theft. 

Valenti’s and Brocuglio’s apparent theft and use of Janiszewski’s credit and identity in order to secure services from Time Warner Cable, however, are quite serious. Especially because it’s unclear whether this was an isolated incident, or a pattern of behavior that has yet to be uncovered. 

Valenti’s: The West Seneca FOIL


Valenti’s: The North Tonawanda FOIL

When Terry Valenti called in to the Shredd & Ragan show some weeks ago, he downplayed the police involvement at his now-defunct restaurant as being no big deal. Here are the police reports on Valenti’s dating back to October last year. Is this any way to run a business or conduct oneself?  

On 11/1/11, Valenti threw Brocuglio and Janiszewski off the property, and purported to fire them.

On 11/18/11, Brocuglio claimed that she was being harassed by an ex-employee, and applied for a restraining order.

On 11/26/11, Brocuglio argued with fired employee William Ripley over a “company car”. Brocuglio accused Ripley’s girlfriend of striking her.

On 12/31/11 at 11pm, a black Ford F-250 backed into the east door of the restaurant. Valenti claims he didn’t know whose truck it was, and that he didn’t get the plate number. It was, of course, the truck driven by Lori Brocuglio, but he did not admit this to the police until the following day.  Brocuglio told a police officer that she rammed the truck into the restaurant because, “we were fighting and he went to hit me so I tried backing away but I put it in gear moving forward and hitting the window”. 

On 1/1/12, Valenti and Brocuglio were in an altercation, and Brocuglio’s son was present for it.

On 1/10/12, Budwey made his complaint to the police about the bad $3,000 rent check. 

On 1/11/12, Budwey blocked the doors and told patrons to leave. A Valenti’s employee, Debbie Reining claimed Budwey pushed her out of the store, and pled out a harassment complaint against him. 

On 1/27/12, Budwey returned to the restaurant to curse Brocuglio out using some colorful language. 

Valenti’s: The North Tonawanda FOIL


It Was the Parsnips that Did It

Two updates to the Valenti’s saga

1. Verizon confirms that the restaurant’s phone was in the name of a dead woman. Commenter RoN aka Karma suspected that the reverse phone number search for D.A. Britting constituted fraud or identity theft. I suspected the online resource may have been out-of-date. 

Verizon was able to confirm that the phone number for Valenti’s restaurant (716-692-4339) was, indeed, in the name of “D.A. Britting”. Other online records show it as being in the name of Verne L. Britting.

Verne Britting died in 1985, but his wife, Dorothy A. Britting, died in 2009.

Why was the phone for Valenti’s Restaurant in the name of a woman who died 3 years ago?  Former employees charge that Valenti and Brocuglio used false social security numbers, or numbers belonging to the dead, to set up the phone lines. In one instance, Terry Valenti was heard to say that they could not pay the phone bill in person for that reason. 

2. Terry Valenti was brought before Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy on Thursday morning, where he waived a hearing on his extradition. He will be held in the Niagara County Jail for up to 30 days awaiting transportation to Texas, where he stands accused of forging his name on documents to fraudulently convert, and transfer title in a motorcycle to unjustly enrich himself. Judge Murphy’s clerk says he likes the other state to pick up prisoners on warrants within 10 days.


The End of Valenti’s Restaurant

Yesterday afternoon, North Tonawanda City Court Judge William Lewis awarded Frank Budwey a warrant of eviction against Desires Unlimited d/b/a Valenti’s Restaurant, and a money judgment for $5,200 in unpaid rent, plus $500 in costs and attorney’s fees.  Valenti’s has 30 days to appeal. 

The unusually long and contentious eviction trial took place over two days, and ended one of the more bizarre restaurant stories in recent memory. Just five short weeks ago, veteran Buffalo News restaurant critic Janice Okun lauded the volume of Valenti’s portions and booths, awarding it 2 1/2 stars. In that review, Okun repeated boasts that co-owners Terry Valenti and Lori Brocuglio had made about Valenti’s work history, including a wild claim that Valenti had defeated Bobby Flay on the TV program Iron Chef America with an award-winning dish of sea bass stuffed with artichokes and parsnips – quite possibly the most exotic “haute cuisine” Valenti could imagine. 

But Valenti’s had bigger problems than just a cook with a false resume. Although Budwey had waived the rent for part of October and all of November, he fully expected payment for December and January at $3,000 per month. By late December, Valenti’s still owed that month’s rent, and was losing purveyor accounts for non-payment. Valenti and Brocuglio paid Budwey $300 around that timeDoctored receipt, and a dispute arose at trial whether they paid $500 or $1500 in cash in early January. The court found that Valenti’s had, in fact, paid $500, because Budwey presented contemporaneous evidence of the cash deposits in both his business ledger and his bank records. He claimed that Lori Brocuglio, who admitted writing “payment in full” on the receipt also doctored it to read $1,500 instead of $500.  

The legal issue is that accepting money as “payment in full” would have potentially bound Budwey to that figure for rents then due and owing. The judge found, however, that other communications from clearly showed that he did not intend to be so bound. Around the same time the receipt was given, a Valenti’s check was made out to Frank “Budway” for $3,000.  Much of Tuesday’s trial centered around how Budwey got the check, and who wrote it. Budwey said either Lori or Terry gave it to him, and he took it to M&T, where he discovered that it would not clear. Budwey then turned the check over to the authorities, and Brocuglio awaits trial on misdemeanor charges of knowingly passing a bad check. 

Here is an example of a check that Brocuglio admits to having written: 

Compare that to the disputed $3,000 rent check that took up so much testimony and argument at trial: 

The mis-spelling of Budway’s name matches Brocuglio’s clumsily constructed Facebook page from last week. 

In rendering his decision, Judge Lewis said that “Brocuglio’s claims fly in the face of the testimony and documents”. He found that it was disingenuous for her to suggest that Budwey forged the check.  Brocuglio likely didn’t realize that Budwey had kept two voice mails she left for him in early January. In the first message, which was played for the judge in court, Brocuglio acknowledges that Terry Valenti had given the check to Budwey, and asks him not to cash it. She said that they would pay the rent via certified funds instead. However, the next day Brocuglio called again, and had completely changed her story.  In a second voice mail played for the judge in court, Brocuglio got a message that Budwey had tried to cash the check, and was notified that the police were now involved. In both calls, she alluded to getting a lawyer to go after Budwey, but now denies knowing of any check, implying that Budwey stole or forged it. 

Brocuglio also claimed that Budwey had agreed to waive the rent for December and January, but the documentary evidence directly contradicted that testimony. 

Brocuglio claimed to the judge that they were ready, willing, and able to pay the rent, but that a dispute that arose with Brocuglio’s nominal “partner” in the business, Melissa Janiszewski, had tied up the bank account. Janiszewski spoke to me in court and disputed this claim, stating that she had no signing privileges on the account, was not named on the account, and that Brocuglio and Valenti had deliberately kept her in the dark about the business’ finances. It was also revealed that Janiszewski, a legal co-owner in the Valenti’s venture, was not named on the lease. Since there’s a money judgment arising out of that lease, she’s rather lucky in this respect, but it indicates that as early as the formation of the business, Valenti and Brocuglio appeared to be conspiring to use Janiszewski as an unwitting pawn in a scheme to run up credit with no intention of repayment. Instead, an old DBA of Terry Valenti’s dating back a decade, the sex-toy-shop-sounding “Desires Unlimited” was listed on the lease as DBA Valenti’s Restaurant. However, a DBA is merely a business name – it is not a legal entity. That’s why the name of a person or corporation precedes the letters “DBA” on legal documents. In this case, however, regardless of the illegality of one DBA doing business as another DBA, Lori Brocuglio signed the lease as a personal guarantor. 

In a dramatic twist in the middle of the trial, Terry Valenti, who looked quite different without his facial hair and bandanna, was escorted from the courtroom by deputies and did not return. Mr. Valenti was apprehended by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office on a felony warrant for forgery originating from Midland County, Texas. After losing his job at Captain Hiram’s in Florida, Valenti moved to Texas, where he cooked at a retirement community in Odessa. Valenti stands accused of forging an ex-girlfriend’s name on a Power of Attorney and title, to fraudulently transfer a motor vehicle for his benefit. Mr. Valenti was led out while Ms. Brocuglio stood at trial with her lawyer, and they were advised of Mr. Valenti’s unexpected departure during a break in the proceedings. He awaits extradition proceedings in the Niagara County Jail

After the proceedings, Mr. Budwey suggested that the Valenti defendants waive any right to retrieve belongings from the restaurant property, and that Budwey would in turn waive the money judgment. For his part, Budwey was happy to have his building back, in the hopes that he can now re-rent it to a less dramatic, more competent tenant. Brocuglio and Valenti had boasted of taking Budwey to Supreme Court for damages relating to his alleged self-help and constructive eviction measures, but with Valenti on his way to Texas and Brocuglio now with a $5000+ judgment over her head, and being behind on the rent at her residential apartment in Eden, it is unknown whether any such action will be pursued. 

Sources who contacted me yesterday add to the story – in running their business, Valenti and Brocuglio used fake social security numbers. When one vendor investigated the Valenti’s operators in an effort to secure fees owed, they discovered that staff – when paid – was paid cash or by business check without required withholdings. They also found that Valenti and Brocuglio had a scheme in the works to use the time between service of the notice to quit and the eviction trial to gut the building and auction off all the contents – Budwey’s “self help” prevented that scheme from taking place, but that Valenti had apparently retained an auctioneer for that purpose. 

Valenti’s restaurant is no more. It leaves behind a trail of cheated vendors and ex-partners. From the documents shown in court, it is safe to presume that it was deceitful not only in its operation, but even in its very foundation. I don’t know whether this is a unique situation, or one that is common in every place, all the time. In the end, Valenti’s taught us that lying isn’t a good business plan, and that it doesn’t take much to operate a reasonably successful red sauce joint in a small Niagara County city, as long as you treat your patrons and employees with respect, and serve decent food at a reasonable price. 

The whole saga (so far) is available here, with an innocuous takedown of a Janice Okun “review”, updated hereherehereherehere, here, and here.)

 


Brian Kahle Responds to Terry Valenti

On today’s Shredd and Ragan show, Terry Valenti tried to explain away his boasts of having defeated Bobby Flay on Iron Chef, and accused the “marketing company” he hired for Googling him and using false information he had given to people in the past for manufacturing the claim.

So I contacted Brian Kahle, the well-respected local PR pro whom Valenti retained prior to opening the restaurant. It was Kahle’s press release that made its way to Janice Okun, and into her original review. It was Kahle and Lori Brocuglio who acted as Okun’s two sources for the Iron Chef claims, and when Okun called Kahle to verify the Iron Chef claim after their falsity was uncovered, he was perfectly correct in telling her that it’s what Terry and Lori told him.

But as far as journalism in WNY is concerned, take a look at Kahle’s release, and see how closely Okun’s words follow its template:

Co-owner (with his wife, Lori) and Chef Terry Valenti is a Western New York boy recently returned home from Texas and Florida — he cooked at Mama Leone’s in Manhattan and in resorts in Daytona. In 2003 he took on uber-chef Bobby Flay on the popular “Iron Chef” program. Knocked the socks off him, too.

It was the parsnips that did it,” says Lori. For the show, Terry produced Chilean Sea Bass stuffed with that vegetable (and artichoke hearts for good measure). He even dreamed up a Mango Parsnip Ice Cream that went over very well.

Everything that’s bolded in the two quoted paragraphs is a lie. So, how did it make its way into the paper?

Kahle explained that he doesn’t issue a press release and media kit until after (a) the clients help to write it; and (b) the clients approve it. In this case, every claim Kahle wrote on Valenti’s behalf was told to him by either Terry or Lori.

Although Valenti accuses Kahle of having Googled him, and including materials he found from prior lies he told Florida employers, Kahle vehemently denies doing any such thing. Indeed, Kahle is incensed at the suggestion that it was he, and not Terry or Lori, who fabricated or blew Valenti’s owns claims out of proportion. He was gratified that Valenti didn’t use Kahle’s name during his radio interview.

In other Valenti news, I learned that the Department of Labor did show up at the restaurant yesterday, but there was no fine leveled or violation drawn up.

What follows below is a PDF of the original press release that Kahle sent to media outlets throughout western New York on Valenti’s behalf.

Valenti’s Restaurant Media Kit Release


Thus Spake Terry Valenti

Terry Valenti called in to Shredd and Ragan on WEDG 103.3-FM, and the audio of that call was played on air Thursday morning. Here is the summary of what he said:

  • He denies owing anyone any money.
  • When asked whether a check was bounced off Frank Budwey, he replied, “yes and no”, and accuses Budwey of taking an unsigned check off the counter despite them having paid him cash.
  • Valenti claims that they moved in Sept. 26th, and that the deal was for free rent for October, November, and December. In early January, Budwey demanded rent for December. They had a dispute, and Budwey asked Valenti to “just give me something.” They paid him some cash and claim to have the receipt.
  • Lori was arrested and bailed out soon thereafter, and she has an attorney assisting her.
  • Valenti never talked to Janice Okun about anything – Lori did, and his PR people did.
  • He claims that the Iron Chef thing is all a big misunderstanding. He did a “mock Iron Chef” in Florida, and backdated it to 2003 for some reason that I didn’t comprehend.  The audio of him blatantly claiming to Channel 7 to have appeared on Iron Chef America was played for him, and he said that he “shouldn’t have said it like that.”
  • He admits that he never attended the CIA, and that he lied in 2007 on an application to get a job.
  • He says he’s trying to come clean because he’s put his business and his employees in a “predicament”.
  • Valenti claims he wanted to just open up a little restaurant, and he hired a marketing company that took the lies that he told a Florida reporter and used that information to puff the North Tonawanda venture.
  • Did he work at Mamma Leone’s? He says he worked at _a_ Mamma Leone’s in New York City. He denies working for _the_ Mamma Leone’s. There is no evidence of another Mamma Leone’s existing in New York City – indeed, for an Italian Restaurant to do so would be a blatant violation of every intellectual property law and theory I can think of.  He said there were “twenty” Mamma Leones in New York City. That is as blatant a lie as saying you’re a Hell’s Angel, or an Iron Chef winner, or a CIA graduate.
  • Mr. Valenti claims to understand the blowback against him, and finally denies ever claiming that he was a member of the Hell’s Angels. This audio right here puts the lie to that (audio NSFW).


Email me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com




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