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Chopped finger photo warned NY chef to be silent on taxes: lawsuit

By Francesca Trianni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York chef in a lawsuit against his former employer said that when he asked for forms to report his income taxes, he was shown a gruesome photo of a person whose fingers were chopped off and warned to keep silent.

Alfred Lolange, a Brooklyn-based executive chef, has sued the former employer, Z-Two Diner & Lounge, an American-style bistro in the New York City borough of Staten Island, for lost wages, claiming the diner's owner withheld money from his paycheck but never submitted the taxes.

Lolange was hired as head chef in February 2012 with a salary of $2,500 per week, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn. When he received only $2,000 per week, he was told by the diner's owner, Steve Osman, that the rest was being withheld for taxes, according to the lawsuit.

At the start of tax season, Lolange asked for a copy of his W-2 form, which an employer must file annually with the federal government to report the amount of taxes withheld from an employee's paycheck - with the copy provided to the employee.

Instead, Lolange was shown a photo of a person whose fingers had been lopped off, according to the suit.

"This is what happens to people with a big mouth," Osman told the chef, according to court documents.

Osman did not immediately return a call for comment.

In March, Lolange went to retrieve his clothes after working his shift, only to find them slashed and shredded, damage apparently caused by a sharp object, the lawsuit said.

"This is what happens to people who talk too much," said Lolange's employer, when asked about the clothes, according to the lawsuit.

The head chef was fired shortly thereafter, Lolange's lawyer, Anthony Mango, said.

Mango said his client feared for his safety but didn't want to walk away quietly.

"This is America, we pay taxes," Mango said. "You can't pretend to deduct wages, and instead keep them in your pocket, and then hope to get away with it."

Lolange is asking for an unspecified amount of damages for wages lost, interest and reimbursement of lawyer's fees.

(Reporting by Francesca Trianni; Editing by Barbara Goldberg; and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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