Dan Nadler had an impressive résumé. The Harvard-educated architect founded his own company in 2017, then built sustainable homes out of shipping containers in New York, Detroit and even Tibet, according to people who knew him. He bragged about designing high-profile pop-up shops with Cartier and Nike.
Serial grifter and former inmate Dan Kaufman is spotted looking incognito last month near his home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
“Dan Nadler takes a minimalist and modern approach to developing state-of-the-art spaces for the public and private realm,” his LinkedIn profile said.
The only problem? Nadler doesn’t exist.
Dan Nadler is really Dan Kaufman, a serial fraudster dubbed the “Montauk Grifter” who has gone by other assumed names, including Dan Kaye, Dan Eric and Dan Katze. He was recently sentenced to 18 months behind bars for stealing property from a rehab facility and is on parole after an early release. The architectural company he claims to have started, The Box Labs, appeared to be little more than an Instagram page, and there are no architects matching his description who are registered under his real or his assumed name.
This was just the latest con in a decade full of them. From 2006 to 2016, he racked up at least nine liens and judgments against him for more than $158,000 in debts, stemming from soured business to unpaid child support, according to public records. He skimmed thousands of dollars from restaurant customers, filed phony invoices, talked his way into the C-suite of a technology company, oversaw construction sites in Manhattan and Queens despite apparently scant experience, and was accused by women of lying about his sexual history.
And every time, it didn’t take long before somebody found out.
Dan Eric Kaufman was born in Wayland, Mass., outside Boston, in 1974. Little is known about his early life. He took classes at Massachusetts Bay Community College as late as 1997, according to a representative there, but the school wouldn’t confirm that he graduated. In 1995, he filed for bankruptcy at the age of 21 in Vermont on debts to creditors like Sprint, Sears and his alma mater, according to public records.
During the next 10 years, Kaufman fathered a child and then allegedly failed to make child support payments, prompting New York to file a lien against him in 1996.
Starting in 2005, he started two Boston-based restaurant companies, but soon was sued by a landlord for $40,000 in unpaid rent, the New York Times reported. It’s unclear how that case was resolved.
Soon after that, Kaufman hooked up with Alan Young, a lawyer and businessman who, in 2009, would be disbarred for defrauding clients, and David Seatts, who was found guilty of fraud in 2014 after the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs sued him for “deceptive or unconscionable trade practice” for not doing construction work he was paid for.
In the spring of 2007, the three started a handful of restaurants along a strip of Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights, including The Busy Chef, which made prepared meals, a pizza joint called Oven and an upscale drinks place called The Wine Bar.
Seatts couldn’t be reached for comment. Young is dead, according to New York state court records. Kaufman’s role was unclear — he reportedly told employees that he was a part owner but worked as a manager and called himself “Chef Dan.”
But something was up. Employees complained about bounced paychecks, The Post reported at the time.
After about a year of managing the restaurants, Kaufman was accused by the Brooklyn district attorney of stealing nearly $25,000 from 19 customers by overcharging them and attempting to steal another $46,000.
In a plea deal, he agreed to pay back $34,000 to Citigroup and American Express for the bogus transactions and another $40,000 to an advance company over a loan he reneged on, according to a Post story at the time. He got five years’ probation as part of a deal that kept him out of prison. In 2009, he was also charged and pleaded guilty in a separate incident, where he stole a friend’s credit card to buy himself McDonald’s. He served nine months in prison for the incident.
It wasn’t long after that Kaufman started to reinvent himself.
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