Designer Aurora James called her dress “Tax the Rich” for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “Powerful message” – but it’s not the one she took to heart.
The 37-year-old fashionista who made waves at the Met Gala with Socialist Democrat AOC last week is a notorious tax deadbeat with unpaid debts stalking her in multiple states, records show.
Most of James’ luxury arrears focus on Cultural Brokerage Agency, an LLC she formed in 2011 to serve as the parent company of her fashion brand, now known as Brother Vellies. It’s a favorite of people like Beyonce, Rihanna, and Meghan Markle.
The company has accumulated three open tax mandates in New York state for not withholding taxes from employee paychecks totaling $ 14,798, the state’s tax and finance department told The Post. The debts – which were incurred before the pandemic – date from 2018 and 2019. The company has been hit with 15 terms in total since 2015.
The company has entered a deeper hole with the federal government. Between April 2018 and April 2019, the Internal Revenue Service placed six federal privileges on the cultural brokerage agency totaling $ 103,220. The privileges specifically cite the company’s failure to pay employee payroll taxes.
The IRS declined to comment on their current status.
“Just because they take it off your paycheck doesn’t mean they send it to the government,” said David Cenedella, a tax professor at Baruch College after reviewing the privileges. “It’s definitely not something you want. I wouldn’t say your average business has this. Something went wrong.
While James apparently has no problem stiffening the IRS, she’s not shy about taking taxpayer money – her business has received $ 41,666 in pandemic aid.
Over the years, Cultural Brokerage Agency has also faced multiple legal challenges due to the usual non-payment of worker benefits.
In October 2019, the state Workers ‘Compensation Board slapped the company with a fine of $ 17,000 for failing to purchase workers’ compensation insurance between March 2017 and February 2018. The company must currently $ 62,722 and no payment has been received to date, a board representative said. To post. Workers’ compensation is paid when an employee is injured on the job and runs out of time.
Former staff called the operation a sweatshop that relied on legions of unpaid interns working full time.
“I suffered a lot of harassment while working for her,” a former contract employee told The Post. “Aurora would ask me to do things that weren’t in anyone’s job description, like scheduling gynecological appointments. The work environment was so hostile that I was afraid to ask for my check. The employee was eventually fired.
A former intern called James “pretty cold,” adding that “she never gives credit or recognition to her team.”
James is also a suspected rent-payer, according to records.
In August 2020, James’ landlord filed documents to evict Brother Vellies from his location at 71 Franklin St. in Brooklyn, and demanded over $ 25,000 plus interest to stay beyond the end of his lease. The matter was settled.
She was sued by a former landlord in February 2018 for over $ 5,000 in unpaid rent at her store’s old address at 209 West 38th Street in Manhattan.
“Aurora, obviously we didn’t want to get to that, but you never paid your rent on time,” wrote Matthew Mandell, a representative for his Manhattan landlord in a frustrated March 2018 email. have been more than patient. ”
Although the AOC proudly referred to James as “working class” designer as they waltzed on the red carpet at the Met Gala, his lifestyle was anything but. As the pandemic raged across America, triggering a deep recession, James reclaimed a $ 1.6 million Los Angeles residence in September 2020.
The Tudor-style home with cathedral ceilings, master bedroom fireplace, and backyard hot tub spans 7,095 square feet in the chic Hollywood Hills, according to RedFin.
True to form, the property is already listed as “offenderBy the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office, which told The Post that James owed $ 2,504 in property taxes.
Although the AOC has received tickets to the annual Bold Ball, entry to the famous exclusive Met Gala costs $ 35,000 per head. James attended the party with Benjamin Bronfman, a boyfriend she is often seen with. Bronfman, 39, is a descendant of the powerful Bronfman family and its distiller empire. It is worth a estimated at $ 100 million.
Photos from the event show the couple smiling broadly with Ocasio-Cortez and boyfriend Riley Roberts.
James’ unpaid bills belie his champagne tastes. She frequently flies to exclusive places, her Instagram richly decorated with photos of Jamaica, Morocco, France, Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, the UK and The Hamptons.
She also found the money to make a Donation of $ 2,700 to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy when Socialists attend a $ 30,000 per ticket gala with a ‘tax the rich’ message while wearing an overpriced dress from a luxury designer who doesn’t pay taxes, ”Republican MP for Staten Island Nicole Malliotakis told The Post. “What happened to everyone paying their fair share?” ”
James and his representatives did not respond to The Post’s multiple requests for comment.
James championed progressive causes long before making headlines to dress America’s most famous socialist. After the death of George Floyd in May 2020, she created the 15 percent engagement, requiring large corporations to commit to buying 15% of their products from black-owned businesses. The idea took off with big companies like Bloomingdale’s, Vogue, Sephora and Crate & Barrel, according to a 15 percent engagement website.
“It’s the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we must represent 15% of your storage space, ”said James in a Instagram post announcing the idea.
Ocasio-Cortez, who has made a career of demanding better wages and benefits for workers and taxing the rich to pay for his budget-smashing federal programs, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Additional report by Ben Blanchet