A former longtime chef and a part-owner of Maestro’s at the Van Dam were arrested Friday morning after authorities say they embezzled more than $200,000 from the downtown Saratoga Springs restaurant.
John LaPosta, 51, and Tina Kruger, 54, were arrested around 7 a.m. at their home on Grooms Road in Clifton Park and each charged with second-degree grand larceny, a felony, according to a news release issued later in the day.
Police say they stole at least $50,000 from Maestro’s from 2011 through 2014, but the amount taken was more likely upward of $200,000. Their lawyer, Jim Linnan, says LaPosta and Kruger deny any criminal wrongdoing and that the charges stem from a business dispute they had last summer with their former partner, Bill Donovan.
“All financial transactions were done on the books,” Linnan said. “This was a business dispute. Mr. Donovan didn’t like the way money was being spent, but everybody knew about it because it was all on the books. Now, eight months after they resolved this dispute, suddenly there’s criminal charges being brought.”
Police say they received a complaint from someone last month alleging the couple had stolen funds from the popular al fresco dining spot on Broadway. An investigation revealed the couple used several different means to divert money from Maestro’s accounts to accounts that “were in no way associated with Maestro’s,” including their personal accounts, police said.
The embezzlement began in May 2011, police said, when a limited liability company associated with the pair took over Maestro’s operations. Prior to that, Maestro’s had operated under a different limited liability company.
In May 2014, police say a member of the new LLC developed “some significant concerns over the status of Maestro’s” and began to look into its financial records.
“It was during this initial internal audit that financial discrepancies were discovered,” police said in the news release. “The allegation here is that, between when the new LLC took over and through September of 2014, LaPosta and Kruger worked in concert to steal over $50,000 from the business.”
An investigation is still ongoing, police said.
LaPosta and Kruger were arraigned and each were released after they posted $5,000 bonds Friday.
The couple made news last fall when they announced they had sold their stake in Maestro’s and were moving on from the bistro, where LaPosta had served as chef since 2006. Linnan said they had been having disputes with Donovan that summer over how the restaurant’s money was being spent. At the end of the busy track season, Kruger agreed to sell her 50 percent stake in the business to Donovan, giving him full ownership.
Attempts to reach Donovan were unsuccessful Friday.
LaPosta and Kruger have been working ever since leaving Maestro’s on a gastropub-style restaurant in Latham that was scheduled to open as soon as May. That restaurant, called Innovo Kitchen, is slated for the site of former Bowler’s Club at 1210 Troy-Schenectady Road, near the Schenectady-Albany county line.
“I’ve been a chef forever — 30 years,” LaPosta told The Daily Gazette in an interview last month. “The last nine of mine have been spent operating and running Maestro’s. I kind of lost sight in the last few years of my true passion, cooking.”