Friday, June 19, 2009

Lawyers want books opened at Agape-funded restaurant

by David Winzelberg
Published: June 18, 2009

Bankruptcy attorneys are trying to force a Woodbury restaurant to produce its financial records because alleged swindler Nicholas Cosmo put more than $1 million into the business.

Attorneys from Jericho-based SilvermanAcampora, who are acting as trustees for the liquidation of Cosmo’s firm Agape World, have filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court to get the owners of Speranza Food Studio at 7940 Jericho Turnpike to reveal its financials to help determine the size of Agape’s investment in the eatery.

So far, according to attorney Ken Silverman, Speranza’s owners have not yet complied.

Speranza received its Certificate of Occupancy from the Town of Oyster Bay in February and it opened soon after. The restaurant’s owners had been honoring gift cards given to Agape investors for a month or so, but stopped recently, according to a card holder who tried to use his. Cosmo had issued thousands of dollars in Speranza gift cards.

Sources say the Agape chief had as much as a 33 percent stake in the restaurant.

Records show the owner of Speranza is listed as a corporation called 7940 Jericho Turnpike, the address of which is 135 Crossways Park Drive in Woodbury. That’s the same address as EKN Financial Services owned by Anthony Ottimo, and Jet One Jets, headed by Louis Ottimo.

Another member of the family, Richard Ottimo, told LIBN in February that all gift cards from Agape World would be honored as soon as he figured out how to limit customers from spending them all at once.

One Agape investor said he used the $2,000 gift card he got from Cosmo only twice, before he was told that the card was dead.

Ottimo referred requests for comment to his attorney Stuart Berg, who couldn’t be reached.

Cosmo served 21 months in prison for a 1999 securities swindle and was ordered to undergo therapy for gambling addiction. He is currently being held at the Nassau County jail after being indicted for defrauding investors out of $413 million in an alleged Ponzi-type scheme. Cosmo has yet to make the $1.25 million bond set for him a few weeks ago.

An attorney at SilvermanAcampora said an Agape World bankruptcy hearing scheduled for June 23 has been rescheduled for July 2.

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