From former clients of his Virginia Payroll & Tax business to the Virginia Department of Taxation, more than a few folks would like to know the whereabouts of Jim Baldi. Baldi, who also owns the Belmont club Bel Rio, now shuttered, slipped out of Charlottesville during the last few weeks without a trace, apparently. Other published reports say Baldi left town with former Bel Rio server Kristian Throckmorton, 25. According to some of Baldi’s former coworkers and clients, the Federal Bureau of Investigation may want to know where he is, too.
A lawsuit filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court by business partner Gareth Weldon claims that Bel Rio owner Jim Baldi failed to provide financial records and documentation of his initial $50,000 investment in the restaurant and club, at the expense of both Bel Rio and Weldon.
“He’s left a trail of disaster,” says Ryan Martin, owner of Martin’s Grill on Route 29. Martin says he hired Baldi to handle his restaurant’s taxes and payroll, but changed services after he noticed that Baldi stopped submitting copies of receipts from tax payments.
Martin claims he was contacted by someone who had passed Martin’s contact information to the FBI, in case the FBI wanted to ask about his involvement with Baldi. A former Baldi coworker, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal within the local restaurant scene, received a similar call. FBI spokesperson Dee Rybiski told C-VILLE that “[i]t’s against FBI policy to say whether or not we do have any cases on anything.”
A lawsuit brought by Gareth Weldon, Baldi’s sole remaining partner in Bel Rio, LLC, also alleges a lack of financial documentation, along with two counts of fraud. In the suit, filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court, Weldon seeks $300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages, dissolution of Bel Rio, LLC, and reimbursement of Bel Rio funds which he claims Baldi used to purchase the share of former partner Dave Simpson, who owns C&O Restaurant.
Weldon, who declined to comment for this article, contends in the suit that when Bel Rio, LLC was formed, the three partners took an equal share in the company and agreed to pay $50,000 apiece. However, the suit alleges, “upon information and belief, Baldi never made a capital contribution to Bel Rio in the full amount of $50,000 cash.” Baldi’s court summons was posted on the door of his Belmont home on July 12, when Charlottesville Sheriff James Brown III was unable to serve Baldi in person.
Tony Jorge, owner of Café Cubano, a Downtown Mall restaurant, says that Baldi handled his payroll and accounting for roughly four years—a job he’d held until recently. Jorge says he was interested in a more accessible accounting firm, and began looking for one after Baldi’s Downtown office for Virginia Payroll, located in the 200 block of West Main Street, closed.
“There has been maybe a little bit of late filing,” says Jorge of Baldi’s accounting work. However, he says any penalty for late filings was typically picked up by Baldi.
Another local restaurant manager who previously worked with Baldi at Bel Rio says he began to doubt Baldi’s business methods when he “realized how much Jim was doing outside of [Bel Rio.]
“He was doing payroll for over 50 different businesses here in Charlottesville,” estimates the source, “and still running that place. The thing that caught me off guard was how somebody that involved with an outside source of work could bartend at their own restaurant on the busiest nights during the week.”
If Baldi were juggling several professional obligations, a few seemed to drop during the last six months. On February 2, the Charlottesville General District Court ordered Baldi evicted from his Downtown Mall office, for failure to pay more than $2,200 in rent to landlord Joe Gieck. Calls to Gieck were not immediately returned.
On March 15, the Internal Revenue Service filed notice of a tax lien in Charlottesville Circuit Court against Bel Rio, LLC in the amount of $12,989.93. The lien is for a quarterly tax return, for the period of March 31 to June 29, 2009.
On July 16—the day after Bel Rio landlord Jeff Easter voluntarily surrendered the club’s liquor license—the state Department of Taxation filed a $5,111.88 lien for sales and withholding taxes. (Withholding tax, explains the department, is “the amount of tax to be withheld from each of your employees’ wages.”) The taxes date from November 2008 to March 2009.
The Federal lien notice lists the address of Bel Rio, LLC as that of the club, on Monticello Road. The recent state lien, also filed against the LLC, gives the address of Baldi’s home—a two-story pink house with the tallest wooden fence on its block of Elliott Avenue. The home, purchased for $95,000 in June 2000, has been on the market since January, and is currently listed at $189,000.
A neighbor commented that she doesn’t know Baldi, but has not experienced any trouble with noise or raucous parties—issues that led to heightened scrutiny by City officials and neighbors during Bel Rio’s existence.
Jorge, who says he hopes to reclaim Café Cubano’s tax return and profit-and-loss statements from Baldi, calls the man’s sudden departure and recent inaccessibility “uncharacteristic.”
“It’s unsettling,” says Jorge. “It’s very unsettling.”
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