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Grub Street's Most Wanted: Check-Kiting Chef a Repeat Offender?

Chef Crimes

He makes the Hamburglar look innocent.Photo Illustration: Everett Bogue;
Photos: Hulton Archive/Getty Images (robber), iStockphoto.com (hat)

When we Googled the name of Ralph Landi, the “Christian chef” who was accused of stealing a laptop and writing checks to himself at a soon-to-open midtown restaurant, we saw he had bounced around country and became immediately suspicious, as we always are of chefs who seek work outside of our fine city (especially in Vegas!). Sure enough, a former employer writes in with a bizarre tale about Landi that is best read in the voice of John Walsh.
This article deserves some real, old-fashioned, investigative reporting to stop this from continuing not only for perspective employers but also for himself and for his family. Our little restaurant in the quiet Lancaster County Pa countryside has a chapter in Ralph’s book dating to 2003. Here is what we know — after the fact!!!!

Mr. Landi worked in Manhattan in the early 2000’s but left for the country “to get my family away from the 9/11 horrors.” He settled in the little town of Palmyra Pa near Hershey and began working at Lebanon Valley College. A short time later he was working at a retirement home near Lancaster called Brethren Village. Why he left both of these places I am not sure, but one can easily speculate. At this time we purchased a small restaurant in the little boro of Strasburg and advertised for a chef who could help us the owners put the restaurant on the map. Ralph applied and “wowed” us — well spoken and articulate, experienced, cooperative, full of ideas to hit the ground running, menu ideas that meshed perfectly with ours. So we hired him.

About three weeks after a very successful opening our man tapes an envelope on our front door with a note saying that he and his family (wife and four children) were heading to Peru to operate in a family member’s business there. Not two days later I checked our banking online and noticed seven checks with numbers out of sequence for a total of almost $9,000. Looking at the image they were all made out to our man…

Then the telephone bill comes and there is now a charge for high-speed internet access on it. When asked Verizon informed that one of our employees called to authorize — Ralph had used the name of another employee to start access. Not that big of a deal except … The calls began to arrive from people who had purchased software from our man using the names of a number of employees — and the software was in actuality freeware…

Long story shortened we got the local police involved who got the Palmyra police involved and we understand that the FBI raided the house and took lots of computers…

But our man fled. In trying to find him since then I know he went to Florida and worked for a while in a Best Western “resort” then soon thereafter he was in the Catskills at a resort. One day I called there asking to make a reservation at the restaurant and was told that they closed the restaurant down due to some personnel problems.

Then the trail went cold until one day maybe two years ago where a Google search found that the Binghamton or Elmira (N.Y.) police had arrested him on bilking someone [else] and the police caught him in Houston fleeing the country.

But nothing more after that. Until the article earlier this week in the Post

Seems like somehow the “system” isn’t helping here. As I said prospective employers should know about this but more importantly his family needs help.

Related: Christian Chef Accused of Stealing from Midtown Restaurant

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