Chef Accused of Fraud by Tricking Culinary Students into Working for Free

April 26, 2011

Our Oceanside labor and employment lawyers have been watching a recent California employment lawsuit development, where San Francisco Chef Angelo Mueller, also known as Angelo Mueller Degenhardt, was accused by Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City Attorney, of being a con artist and running a fraudulent cooking school operation called "Academie de Cuisine"--where he allegedly took the tuition of students and exploited them by making them work as free labor for his catered events, with the lingering promise of future employment with the company.

The lawsuit accuses Mueller of using local nonprofits to refer culinary students to his academy, enticing the students with the promise of quickly gaining entry-level qualifications required to work in the food service and hospitality industry. Mueller reportedly charged culinary students up to $3600 in tuition for a three-month culinary program that was supposed to include additional three month externship at one of the academy venues, where students would receive fairly paid wages.

But according to Herrera's office, the students, many of who were Chinese immigrants, started complaining that they were required to manage and cater academy-related events without proper compensation, and were forced to sign agreements retroactively stating that they would not receive certificates of completion without completing the unpaid externship.

Mueller has reportedly been convicted of multiple counts of federal mail and securities fraud, and spent time in Utah prison after violating his probation terms, where he was only released last year. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to stop the operation of the academy, full payment of all withheld wages to the students who worked to cater the academy's events, and civil penalties for each violation.

In Riverside, Fontana, Placentia and Carson, California, contact our attorneys at Howard Law, PC today.

Suit filed against con artist accused of bilking students at San Francisco culinary school, Mercury News, April 7, 2011

Chef made half-baked promises, allegedly tricked culinary students into free labor, The San Francisco Examiner, April 6, 2011

Herrera sues con artist 'chef' for cooking school fraud, wage violation scam, Office of the City Attorney of San Francisco Press Release, April 5, 2011

Related Web Resources:

Office of the City Attorney of San Francisco: Dennis J. Herrera

Related Blog Posts:

Survey Reveals Wage Theft in Chinatown Restaurants, California Employment Lawyers Blog, October 1, 2010