The owner and CEO of Bronx-based restaurant chain Golden Krust was facing legal troubles before his apparent suicide.
"It's a shock to everybody involved. Clearly it is a suicide. We have a suicide note, which I would never divulge to anybody — that's personal," NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. "But it clearly shows that he was in crisis at some point."
Records show Lowell Hawthorne, 57, was being sued for wage theft, after employees at Golden Krust accused him of withholding overtime pay.
Authorities say Hawthorne also failed to pay workers the minimum wage.
Multiple reports say Hawthorne feared the feds were investigating him for evading millions of dollars in taxes.
Police say Hawthorne was found inside the company's headquarters in the Bronx on Saturday night, having shot himself in the head.
Hawthorne was born in Jamaica. He and his family opened the first Golden Krust restaurant on Gun Hill Road in 1989. There are now more than 120 restaurants across the country.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called a Hawthorne a pillar of the community and said he is disturbed by his death.