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AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ Dress Designer in Debt to the IRS

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) received an onslaught of criticism for attending the swanky Met Gala wearing a “Tax the Rich” dress. As it turns out, the millionaire designer who created it is in debt to the IRS.

According to the New York Post, designer Aurora James, founder of the fashion brand Brother Vellies, “is a notorious tax deadbeat with unpaid debts dogging her in multiple states.”

For instance, through 2018 and 2019, Cultural Brokerage Agency – the parent company for Brother Vellies – failed to withhold “income taxes from employees’ paychecks totaling $14,798,” according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Since 2015, the company has been hit with 15 debt warrants, all of which occurred prior to the pandemic when the company garnered $41,666 in relief aid.

“Just because they take it out of your paycheck doesn’t mean they’re sending it to the government,” David Cenedella, a Baruch College taxation lecturer, told The Post. “It’s certainly not something you want. I would not say your average business out there has this. Something went wrong.”

The company’s debts and legal issues extend beyond just the IRS, including multiple legal challenges of “habitual nonpayment” and a failure to provide workman’s comp:

The company got into a deeper hole with the feds. Between April 2018 and April 2019, the Internal Revenue Service placed six federal liens on Cultural Brokerage Agency totaling $103,220. The liens specifically cite the company’s failure to remit employee payroll taxes.

Over the years Cultural Brokerage Agency has also faced multiple legal challenges as a result of habitual nonpayment of worker benefits.

In October 2019 the state Worker’s Compensation Board slapped the company with a $17,000 fine for not carrying worker’s-comp insurance between March 2017 and February 2018. The company currently owes $62,722 and no payments have been received to date, a rep for the board told The Post. Workers’ comp is paid out when an employee is hurt at work and misses time.

One former staffer described the work environment as “hostile” while an ex-intern described James as being “quite cold” and one who “never gives recognition or acknowledgment to her team.” A former contract employee told The Post:

I experienced a lot of harassment when I worked for her. Aurora would ask me to do things that were not in anyone’s job description, like scheduling her gynecological appointments. The work environment was so hostile that I was afraid to ask for my check.

When it comes to paying her rent and dealing with landlords, James has a less-than-stellar reputation:

In August 2020, James’ landlord filed papers to evict Brother Vellies from their location at 71 Franklin St. in Brooklyn, as well as demanding more than $25,000 plus interest for staying beyond the end of her lease. The case was settled.

She was sued by a previous landlord in February 2018 for more than $5,000 in unpaid rent at her shop’s old address at 209 West 38th Street in Manhattan.

During the economic turmoil of the pandemic, James also purchased a $1.6 million Tudor-style home in Los Angeles that now has a “delinquent” tax status of $2,504 in unpaid property taxes, according to the Los Angeles County assessor’s office.

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