Brooklyn Wedding Venue Owner Pleads Guilty, Ordered to Pay Back Couples

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    The owner of a popular Brooklyn restaurant that closed abruptly and left dozens couples without a wedding venue has pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges. Ida Siegal reports. (Published Thursday, Jun 12, 2014)

    The owner of a popular Brooklyn restaurant that closed abruptly and left dozens couples without a wedding venue has pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges.

    Jason Stevens, the owner of reBar, pleaded guilty Thursday to grand larceny and criminal tax fraud. As part of a plea deal, he faces three and a third to 10 years in prison when he's sentenced July 21.

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    He's also been ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution, to be split among the nearly 100 couples who were shut out of the weddings they'd paid for at reBar when the venue closed without warning in May. 

    His lawyer, Allan Bahn, says the 41-year-old Stevens is "taking responsibility."

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    In addition to stiffing couples out of their wedding money, prosecutors say he stole about $200,000 in sales tax collected between 2009 and 2012 and failed to collect more than $1 million in taxes on the business the same period. 

    Julie Villar said she was "completely ecstatic" to learn that the tens of thousands of dollars she spent at reBar will be returned. She and her now-husband were able to find a new place to get married in just two weeks after the restaurant closed, but had to go into debt to do it. 

    "Even if it's not everything we paid him, it'll be something, which is more than I ever thought he would do, so it's amazing," said Villar, who intends to pay back her "incredibly generous" in-laws who helped pay for the new wedding. 

    Christian Pascarella says he and his fiance paid more than $17,000 in full for a wedding next year at reBar.

    "I'm elated that he's going to own up, or man up as we say in Brooklyn, to what he did wrong," he said. 

    "I was resigned that I wasn't going to get a dollar back. I signed off on it, I was going to start fresh, start saving again," he said. "And to hear this news today, it brought a smile to my face." 

    To get their money, the couples need to provide evidence within 120 days that they'd paid reBar. 

    -- Ida Siegal contributed to this report

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