From Chicago food-famous to federal fugitive

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Chuck Goudie and the I-Team look into the former owner of a successful West Loop restaurant. Attila Gyulai is now facing federal fraud charges-and allegedly fled the country. (WLS)

ABC7 I-TEAM INVESTIGATION
A man who was recently one of Chicago's hottest restaurateurs is now on the lam, according the federal authorities.

An arrest warrant and wanted poster are out for the ex-owner of Embeya that used to be in the West Loop.

The FBI on Monday said that Attila Gyulai left the country after a cash grab totaling at least $300,000 in restaurant funds. Gyulai, 45, also allegedly jilted his former chef out of his share of the profits and saddled him with a $1 million loan after fleeing the country.

CLICK HERE FOR CRIMINAL COMPLAINT

A federal complaint states that the crimes took place during a span of six years before and after Embeya closed in 2016. Leaving a wake of debt and broken promises, authorities say Gyulai (pronounced July-like the month) and his wife Komal Patel have been AWOL and may be in Mexico or Europe.

Embeya opened in the trendy West Loop in 2012 and it was quickly heralded as a place to eat and be seen. Executive chef Thai Dang was a popular addition to the Chicago food scene, known for his creative Vietnamese cuisine.
From celebrity chef at Eybeya in 2012 to "Shareholder A" in a 2018 federal complaint, Dang's story is that of a restaurant investment gone bad.

According to the 20-page criminal filing, Dang was fired in 2014 from Embeya after his wife discovered that the restaurant made $3 million in gross revenue-and that they had been shortchanged. Neither Thai Dang nor his brother, Kenny, who together owned 43.5 percent of the restaurant, received their proper share in payments from that revenue, according to federal investigators. Gyulai and Patel owned a combined 56.5 percent of Embeya and fired the Dangs after they confronted them over the discrepancy, according to the complaint filed in federal court.

The FBI says that Gyulai routinely hid bank records and other financial data and would move money into to his personal accounts.

"Specifically, Shareholder A stated that GYULAI would take money from Embeya's business bank account, deposit it into his personal Chase bank account, and then pay his personal expenses such as plane tickets, credit card bills, cell phone bills, his home mortgage, and a car lease, among other things" the complaint states.
When he fled the U.S., investigators say Gyulai stuck the Dangs with nearly $1 million in bank loan debt. Dang and his wife have since opened a popular Vietnamese restaurant in Pilsen called HaiSous.

While investigating Gyulai's whereabouts for a civil suit, Dang reportedly determined that Gyulai "had left the United States, had defaulted on their mortgage payments, and had abandoned their car on the street." According to bank records, Dang determined that Gyulai "had traveled to several different countries around the world after Embeya closed, including Canada, Mexico, and Hungary."

They were last known to be living in Tulum, Mexico-although according to newly filed federal court records their current residence is unknown.

Last May Dang and his brother won a $1.4 million judgement in their civil lawsuit brought against Gyulai.

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