SPARTA, NJ- In what appears to be the latest in an escalating issue between former employees and the owner of the Mohawk House, Grey Bridge Public Relations firm announced a $15 million lawsuit against Steve and Rachael Scro last week.
The suit filed in Sussex County Superior Court by Manhattan attorneys claims six former employees, James Kruzelnick, AnnMarie, Stefano, Denise Guagenti, Lisa Stoeckel, Kayla Dollar and Craig Vaccaro were subjected to harassment, discrimination, retaliation and sexual abuse, according to Susan Peters of Grey Bridge.
Karen Kessler, spokesperson for the Mohawk House owners said, “This retaliatory lawsuit was initiated by a former employee who repeatedly turns to the courts with outrageous accounts intended to result in a big payday.”
Mohawk House files suit against former employees
On May 19, 2020 Island Services III, LLC/ Mohawk House filed a complaint against Kruzelnick, Ronnie Smith, Kimberly Gallucci, John and Jane Doe’s because, after separating from the Mohawk House they “engaged in a pattern of lies, insults, harassment and terroristic threats of violence…conduct encouraged by Kruzelnick”
Kessler of Evergreen Public Relations said Kruzelnick never responded to that lawsuit, instead he filed his own suit. The complaint and request for a jury trial was filed in Sussex County Superior Court.
The complaint alleges Kruzelnick as the “mastermind” made terroristic threats that “constitute racketeering activity.” The complaint said the actions fall under the New Jersey Racketeering and Corrupt Organization or RICO Act. The conduct outlined in the suit include:
- Creating false Facebook identities for the purpose of harassing Mohawk House,
- Having accused the Mohawk House of stealing tips,
- Calling on the Facebook community to ‘BOYCOTT the Mohawk House’,
- Urging ‘Somebody should whip his Bigot F****** A** with respect to Scro
- Urging ‘Maybe we should go in there drinking one afternoon when they open back up. See if we can take the place apart piece by piece’ with respect to Mohawk House
- Having accused the Mohawk House of using charitable activities in support of COVID-19 healthcare workers as a ‘screen’ for a text message sent four years ago.
The complaint sheds new light on the reason for the animosity between Kruzelnick and the Scro’s.
According to Mohawk House’s suit the issue with 13-year employee Kruzelnick began with a text message. The complaint said in 2016 Kruzelnick received “one or two” text messages through the work scheduling app that “addressed him by an inappropriate, homophobic nickname.” It was the first and only time that happened according to the complaint.
When Kruzelnick brought it to Scro’s attention, it was investigated though they were not able to “determine who sent the text message,” according to the complaint.
The complaint said in a subsequent meeting Scro told Kruzelnick “he had nothing to do with the text message” and Kruzelnick said “I should have known after all of these years how you are and that wasn’t the case.”
Kruzelnick did not take any action but “remained bitter,” according to the complaint. This sentiment took the form of “inappropriate behavior or unprofessional behavior or making a scene at work “ for which he “blamed his conduct on the fact he was subjected to harassment because of his sexual orientation” even thought he “never cited even a single incident other than the 2016 text message.”
The complaint said on September 27, 2018 after an issue at work Rachael Scro sent an email to Kruzelnick that said “if you believe you are being subjected to harassment, you remain encouraged to file a forma complaint with me, setting forth the facts and details supporting your allegations so that a proper investigation may occur.” None was filed, the complaint said.
The complaint alleges the group of former employees constitute an “enterprise whose overarching purpose is to terrorize, intimidate and injure Mohawk House…and eventually to destroy it.”
“[Kruzelnick’s] performance record speaks for itself,” Kessler said. “The other employees’ complaints were investigated and determined to be without any basis.”
The plaintiffs in the suit recently filed by lawyers Bennitta L. Joseph and Jon L. Norinsberg of Joseph and Norinsberg LLC against the Mohawk House include:
- James Kruzelnick Mohawk House waiter from “around the time the restaurant first opened, until he was “wrongfully discharged” on September 28, 2018
- AnnMarie Stefano a bartender from November 2016 through November 28, 2019
- Denise Guagenti a bartender and hostess from February 2007 through December 2010,
- Lisa Stoeckel a bartender and bar manager from 2004 to May 4, 2016,
- Kayla Dollar a waiter from 2017 through October 2018 and
- Craig Vaccaro a waiter from September 2015 through January 2017.
Former employee Kruzelnick's suit against Napolitano
Lawyers Joseph and Norinberg have also filed a $15 million lawsuit on behalf of Kruzelnick alleging sexual battery and assault against former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano. Sussex County resident who served as senior judicial analyst for Fox News, was accused in the suit of repeatedly requesting Kruzelnick to be his waiter.
Kruzelnick said the abuse began December 2014 when Napolitano followed Kruzelnick into the bathroom and groped him. Kruzelnick’s suit said Napolitano pursued Kruzelnick including invitations to Napolitano’s home beginning September 2015 continuing through August 2017. The complaint lays out events at Napolitano’s home in graphic detail of sexual conduct and a complaint of attempted rape.
The complaint alleges Kruzelnick approached the judge about gay bashing at work, alleging Napolitano bragged about” fixing cases, getting people off and sending people away.” The complaint says in June 2016 Kruzelnick sought Napolitano’s help with his brother’s criminal case in Texas and that Napolitano used this favor to illicit sexual acts.
Most recent lawsuit
Another party in the suit against the Mohawk House Stefano allege in the complaint Scro “made inappropriate sexual contact, engaged in inappropriate sexually charged banter and sexually offensive and disparaging remarks about her appearance,” including telling her she should get breast enhancement surgery. She resigned November 2019.
Guagenti, in the complaint accuses Scro of “sexually offensive behavior…including frequently kissing her and hugging her” and grabbing and squeezing her. She was fired in December 2010.
In the complaint, Stoeckel also accuses Scro of frequently making “sexually charged remarks” and of becoming hostile towards Stoeckel when she rejected his advances. She resigned in May 2016.
Dollar alleges Scro “repeatedly asked [her] to wear lower cut blouses so she could make more money,” and made other unwanted touches. She resigned in October 2018.
Vaccaro’s complaint alleges Scro “smacked [his] backside without his consent” and that Vaccaro heard Scro refer to Kruzelnick as ‘acting so faggy’.” He was terminated in 2017.
“The Mohawk House has been an anchor in the community for more than 15 years, with many of the over 45 staff having worked there for five years or more,” Kessler said. “This action is intended to hurt a business, already reeling from COVID, yet it continues takes every opportunity to assist the community. We look forward to the facts emerging.”