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AOC ‘Tax The Rich’ Dress Designer Owes Huge Tax Debts

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


Democratic-Socialist New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves last week when she appeared at the Met Gala in a dress that had “Tax The Rich” emblazoned on it.

The 30-year-old representative touted the credentials of the woman of color who made it, but there is a catch.

“Proud to work with @aurorajames as a sustainably focused, Black woman immigrant designer who went from starting her dream @brothervellies at a flea market in Brooklyn to winning the @cfda against all odds – and then work together to kick open the doors at the Met,” she said on Instagram.

“The time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the Rich,” she said.

About that “sustainably focused, black woman immigrant designer,” here is some news Ocasio-Cortez likely did not know, from The New York Post.

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Designer Aurora James called her “Tax the Rich” dress for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “powerful message” — but it’s not one she has taken to heart.

The 37-year-old fashionista who made waves at the Met Gala with Democratic-Socialist AOC last week is a notorious tax deadbeat with unpaid debts dogging her in multiple states, records show.

Most of luxe-living James’ arrears center on Cultural Brokerage Agency, an LLC she formed in 2011 to serve as the parent company of her fashion brand, which today is known as Brother Vellies. It’s a favorite of people like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Meghan Markle.

The company racked up three open tax warrants in New York state for failing to withhold income taxes from employees’ paychecks totaling $14,798, the state Department of Taxation and Finance told The Post. The debts — which were incurred before the pandemic — stem from 2018 and 2019. The company has been hit with 15 warrants in total since 2015.

But wait, there’s more.

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The Internal Revenue Service hit the  Cultural Brokerage Agency with federal liens between April 2018 – April 2019 for a total of $103,220.

“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 said after he looked at the liens. “It’s certainly not something you want. I would not say your average business out there has this. Something went wrong.”

Not only did she stiff the IRA, but she also got $41,666 in pandemic relief too, The Post reported.

The agency has also gotten into legal trouble for 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,” The Post said.

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Some former staffers compared the operation to a sweatshop with tons of unpaid interns.

“I experienced a lot of harassment when I worked for her,” a former contract employee said. “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.”

A former intern described James as “quite cold,” saying that “she never gives recognition or acknowledgement to her team.”

And she apparently does not like to pay her rent either.

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.

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“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 landlord said in a March 2018 email. “We have been more than patient.”

And though Ocasio-Cortez described her as “working class” she nabbed a Los Angeles area home worth $1.6 million in September 2020 but, as is her apparent modus operandi, James owes $2,504 in property taxes that are listed as “delinquent.”

“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,” Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis said. “What happened to everyone paying their fair share?”

Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to The Post’s requests for comment.

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