The designer of the “Tax the Rich” Met Gala dress worn by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is not practicing that preaching, relying on unpaid interns and reportedly taxing her employees’ income but not sending the money to the government.
The parent company of Aurora James’ Brother Vellies fashion brand, Cultural Brokerage Agency, has three open tax warrants in New York state, 15 total warrants since 2015, and six federal liens from the IRS in 2018-’19 totaling $103,220, citing “failure to remit employee payroll taxes,” the New York Post reported.
“Just because they take it out of your paycheck doesn’t mean they’re sending it to the government,” Baruch College taxation lecturer David Cenedella told the Post after reviewing the liens. “It’s certainly not something you want. I would not say your average business out there has this. Something went wrong.”
The IRS declined to comment to the Post’s request for a response.
In addition to the tax liability concerns, James’ company also claimed $41,666 in COVID-19 Payroll Protection Program funds, has been sued for not paying worker’s compensation claims, and operates as a “sweat shop,” relying on unpaid interns volunteering to work full-time.
“I experienced a lot of harassment when I worked for her,” a fired former contract employee told the Post. “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.”
New York’s Worker’s Compensation Board fined James’ company $17,000 in October 2019 for not carrying worker’s-comp insurance from March 2017 to February 2018, according to the report.
The company currently owes $62,722 in back payments to employees hurt at work and forced to miss time, the Post reported.
Also, James’ company was sued to be evicted from 71 Franklin St. in Brooklyn, owing $25,000 plus interest for staying beyond its lease, before settling, according to the report.
It was not the first time her company was sued by a landlord, having owned more than $5,000 in unpaid rent at the prior address, 209 West 38th Street in Manhattan.
“Aurora, obviously we did not want it to come to this, but you never have paid your rent in a timely manner,” Matthew Mandell, a rep for her Manhattan landlord wrote in a March 2018 email, the Post reported. “We have been more than patient.”
AOC has called James a “working class” designer, but James bought a $1.6 million residence in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills last September 2020.
But that property is listed as “delinquent” by the Los Angeles County assessor’s office, which told the Post there are $2,504 in property taxes owed.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy when socialists attend a $30,000 per ticket gala with a message of ‘tax the rich’ while wearing an overpriced dress by a luxury designer who doesn’t pay taxes,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, D-N.Y., told the Post. “What happened to everyone paying their fair share?”
James, her reps, and Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.