And Helmer Toro, owner of the most well-known bagelry in the city, is learning the hard way that when you substitute taxes-lite for the real thing, the barristers who brunch on numbers won’t be fooled. Today the NY Post reports that the Manhattan DA has charged the H&H Bagel owner in a $400,000 tax cheat scam. He has pled not-guilty to the allegations which could result in a jail sentence of up to 15 years and cost him $1.2 million.
Some of the money Toro allegedly stole the old-fashioned way: He simply pocketed $369,318 withheld from employee paychecks for state taxes. Nice. Picking the pockets of truck drivers, cashiers on 80th Street and Broadway, and the bagel makers on West 46th Street who stand over vast vats of boiling water to prepare the city’s daily dose of 80,000 bagels. It’s so much more vivid than Wall Street bankers mis-pricing credit default swaps. I like a story in which you can see who allegedly stole from whom; you don’t need one of those amazing NYTimes graphics that vibrate with numbers and swirl with arrows to show the ebb and flow of ill-gotten gains.
The DA also alleges that Toro cheated the state of another $33,000 through phony-baloney legal maneuverings. Six times he allegedly created shell businesses with new corporation documents so he could pay a special low rate on unemployment insurance taxes — available only to new businesses. “This is the first prosecution of unemployment-insurance tax-rate manipulation in the country,” state Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith told the NY Post.
This is not Toro’s first encounter with the law: The Daily News notes that earlier this year the Upper West Side store was shut for six months for nonpayment of taxes.
Truth be told, I’m no big fan of H&H Bagels. I’m not surprised that the Seinfeld show featured them — they’re a lot of nothing (doughy, not crusty the way a bagel should be) and way overpriced — $1.40 each. And then there’s this: Late one night on West 80th Street, many years ago, I witnessed a dog urinate on a rolling rack of bagels waiting to be packed for delivery. I didn’t know how metaphoric that moment might be.