Wow, a live one from the newsroom here Menupages SF! Check it out:
The owner of Home Menu, a SOMA Chinese restaurant, was arrested last week for allegedly defrauding his customers out of thousands of dollars in false credit card charges, but as of this morning, the restaurant’s website remained active, including an online credit card ordering device.
Lam allegedly charged former customers hundreds of dollars each in the months after the restaurant closed, more than a year ago, according to prosecutors. He was arrested by San Francisco Police Nov. 8, after a nine-month investigation that started when irate customers contacted a local news station, District Attorney spokeswoman Bilen Mesfin said.
So what’s with the website?
The confusion began when Eater SF indicated that the online menu was still up, credit-card ordering device and all, and sites such as Yelp and Menupages hadn’t listed the place as closed MP has since corrected that.
The phone number, we discovered, goes to a chipper message that gives the restaurant’s hours and mentions nothing about it being closed for a year and a half. What the hell?
Here’s how it all shakes out, sort of: Yes, the restaurant is still closed. It was padlocked today but looked, according to Menupages correspondent Dan Powell, “like it could be open in five minutes if [the owner] wanted to. There was a blinking religious figure mounted on the back wall that was still plugged in and going. There were stacks of plastic tumblers, it looked like all the napkin holders still have napkins. There were menus under the glass on the tables.”
According to an administrator at Studio Trans, the web hosting company that ran the site for the restaurant, the site was taken down a year and a half ago when the restaurant first went out of business.
“As far as why the website is running [now], we had been contacted a week and a half ago by another Chinese restaurant that was interested in working with us, and we turned on the Home Menu site as a demonstration,” Mike Barker said. He said the credit card information device was not active.
So why was the restaurant still listed as a client of Studio Trans? “That’s an oversight. I will get my webmaster on there and have that removed,” Barker said.
A few hours after we first started asking about this, the restaurant’s site is no longer available.
Still no explanation as to why the phone number still works, voicemail and all, and why the ostensibly out-of-business restaurant retains its storefront with sign and furniture. Who’s paying all those bills? We don’t know.
Here’s what we do know: Phau Lam faces 32 felony counts, including identity theft, credit card fraud and forgery, for a maximum possible 10 years in prison if he’s found guilty, according to District Attorney spokeswoman Bilen Mesfin. The DA alleges more than 100 victims.
We’re still waiting to hear back from Lam’s public defender, who we called a couple hours ago. We’ll update this post as necessary when that call comes in.