Ms. Kwan’s suits were filed on Feb. 1 and 2. On March 8, Mr. Deshmukh agreed to be served, less than an hour after receiving a fact-checking inquiry from The Times. Five days later, Ms. Kwan agreed to drop the suits after the parties settled.

Sheryl Heefner, Superiority Burger’s general manager, wrote in a statement that “Ashwin has been critical to the development of Superiority Burger,” adding, “he is also my friend who I love working alongside.”

Mr. Deshmukh is not famous, but he is widely known among downtown tech investors, restaurateurs, bar owners, journalists, fashionistas, podcasters, D.J.s and influencers. If you work in New York in the culture industry — in media, fashion, art, music, publishing — it is a distinct possibility that you have gone to a party at Jean’s sponsored by a cool brand or a brand trying to be cool, or else eaten a slice of one of the pizzas he sent to a birthday party or an opening or a corporate event. And if not, the Instagram algorithm may have shown you one of these things. You are probably aware of the world of Ashwin Deshmukh, even if you don’t know it.

Most people who meet Mr. Deshmukh say he is intelligent, informed, funny, kind and slightly elusive, in a quirky way. But among the many New Yorkers who know Mr. Deshmukh only a bit, there is a subgroup of people who know him a bit more. These people, who are numerous, embarrassed and still finding one another, will say that Ashwin Deshmukh is a thief.

In response to a detailed list of questions, Mr. Deshmukh responded with an email through a representative at Jean’s disputing many aspects of this story without providing further detail.

Ben Carlos Thypin met Mr. Deshmukh in 2012, through a mutual friend. Mr. Thypin is a real estate broker and political player, who co-founded Open New York, a prominent pro-housing group. But at the time, he was an unproven heir to a steel-turned-real estate fortune, eager to make a name for himself. His first impression of Mr. Deshmukh, he said, was that he “seemed like a smart and knowledgeable guy.”

By Joseph Bernstein

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