Three restaurant operators have been arrested by the Department of Investigation for allegedly bribing health inspectors to issue them better letter grades. One operator in Queens and two in the Bronx now face Bribery in the Third Degree and Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree charges after DOI undercover inspectors returned to the restaurants and were offered similar bribes.
In one case, a DOH inspector visiting Amazura nightclub in Jamaica, Queens told the establishment a live lizard located in a fish tank would have to be removed from the property as it violates the NYC health code. "Before leaving the establishment, a worker told the inspector that the inspector had forgotten something in the bathroom. When the inspector went to the bathroom, he saw a wad of cash on top of the sink," according to reports by the DOI.
A DOI agent returning to the same establishment was offered a similar bribe after the undercover agent discovered multiple infractions. DOI inspectors at the other two restaurants were offered similar types of cash bribes.
Three individuals were arrested this week and charged, including Morie Kabba of Jagana Family Kennedy Fried Chicken's in the Bronx and Mohammad Safi of Farm Fried N Curry Chicken and Amazura, both located in Queens. All three could face up to eight years in prison if convicted.
While bribery is obviously a bad idea, the restaurant grading system has been criticized for miring restaurant owners in high fees for non-sanitary food violations that can total thousands of dollars. Restaurant owners have previously called out the city for making ownership nearly impossible under the onerous and often impossible violation and fee systems.
So if a few hundred bucks might get the city off the lizard's back, you can't blame them for trying.