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Woodside man fronted vendor cart scheme: City

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Five Queens residents are facing felony charges after the city Department of Investigation uncovered some allegedly shady dealings in the food vendor industry.

A Woodside business owner has been accused of being the mastermind of a scheme ring to rent his cart to other vendors to take to the Department of Health’s inspection site in Maspeth, the DOI said. Sometimes the same cart was presented several times a day on behalf of different vendors, the DOI said, after concluding a three-year investigation.

Sotirios Econopouly, 71, who owns Steve’s Sheet Metal Co. at 53-04 Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside, provided the “clean” cart to other vendors for a fee, investigators said. Corona resident Francisco Quesnay, 53, Econopouly’s employee, would bring one of Econopouly’s carts to the site for inspection and afterward the permit would be transferred to the other cart, the DOI said.

An undercover investigator at the Maspeth facility recorded four appearances of the same cart under different names between October and November 2006, the DOI said.

Econopouly, who lives in Roslyn, L.I., was charged with offering a false instrument for filing, tampering with public records and falsifying business records, according to the DOI.

Quesnay was charged with offering a false instrument and falsifying business records.

For 10 years, Econopouly also allegedly brokered illegal transfer deals between legitimate permit bearers and vendors seeking permits, the DOI said. He would charge $6,000 for a two-year vendor permit, giving $1,000 to the real permit owner and keeping $1,000 for himself, the city said.

Another man, Whitestone resident Jacob Shimon, 46, would sell Econopouly blank letters asserting the bearer was keeping his cart in Shimon’s commissary, the DOI said.

Shimon was charged with possession of a forged instrument and falsifying business records, according to the DOI.

Another food cart entrepreneur, Ifigenia Satsaronis, 40, who owns Manhattan Food Vendors in Long Island City, accepted payment from an undercover investigator for a permit and a commissary storage verification letter, the DOI said.

She allegedly told the investigator it did not actually matter where he stored the vendor cart.

Tsatsaronis was charged with possession of a forged instrument and falsifying business records, the DOI said.

A Woodside man running a notary public business from a newsstand in the same building as the city Health Department’s offices in Manhattan was also arrested in the sweep.

Nikhil Dhameliya, 23, was charged with issuing a false certificate after he allegedly illegally notarized 30 blank permit applications for an undercover agent, the DOI said.

An Astoria man, Adamadia Arabatzis, 48, who runs the Vendors Help Center, was charged with possession of a forged instrument after allegedly submitting a forged letter to the Health Department about a missing cart permit, according to the DOI.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:33 pm, October 10, 2011
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