Michelle Buggs (center) the owner of a Far Rockaway restaurant on New Haven Avenue, was arraigned in Nassau County on charges of disability fraud and filing false business documents. Her restaurant received mixed reviews on social media. Pictured is the opening of the restaurant in 2014, with many local politicians in attendance.
A Far Rockaway restaurant owner was arrested on felony charges Thursday, accused in Hempstead Criminal Court of fraudulently accepting disability and workers’ compensation payments, the Nassau County District Attorney announced on Thursday.
Nassau court sources identified the woman as Michelle Buggs, 45, of Inwood, who was charged with grand larceny, insurance and workers’ compensation fraud, perjury and offering a false instrument for filing.
Authorities said she accepted more than $69,000 while claiming a disability, despite evidence that her injury had healed.
The Nassau County district attorney’s office said Buggs was hurt on the job on Oct. 18, 2006, while employed as a baker and cake decorator at a Glen Head Waldbaum’s. She suffered an injury to her right wrist while helping a fallen customer from the floor and back to her walker. The Workers’ Compensation Board approved disability payments as a result.
Her disability, for which she was getting payments each month, did not keep her from opening a trendy Caribbean restaurant in Far Rockaway, court papers show.
State records show Buggs filed incorporation papers for a restaurant named It’z All 4 U in August 2012.
The restaurant, located at 20-01 New Haven Avenue in Far Rockaway, got mixed results from diners on Yelp and other social media sites.
Several said that the restaurant was very good and that the help, particularly the owner and manager were “very friendly and helpful.”
Others, however, said that the food was inedible and the restaurant not very conducive to dining pleasure.
The restaurant served such specials as curry goat, pinto beans, chopped BBQ, meat loaf and BBQ Chicken.
During a December 2014, independent medical exam, Buggs said she had not been able to work since the injury, prosecutors said. During a February 2015, workers’ compensation hearing, she said she didn’t own a business, according to prosecutors.
During surveillance of the restaurant by authorities in February 2015, Buggs was seen cooking, working the register, serving customers and carrying items and deliveries using her right hand, prosecutors said.
“When individuals decide to scam the system by filing fraudulent disability insurance claims, they are undermining that very system designed to help those in need,” District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement.
She was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court on Aug. 26. Buggs’ attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City, said his client denies the charges.
“She looks forward to fighting this case in court,” Gross said.
Buggs faces up to 5 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top charges.