Lebanon Reporter

State News

February 19, 2014

Officials seek $3.4M seized from Ind. restaurants

LAFAYETTE (AP) — Prosecutors have filed lawsuits seeking to keep more than $3.4 million seized during police raids last fall at about two dozen Mexican restaurants across Indiana.

Civil forfeiture lawsuits have been filed in Tippecanoe and Marion counties, accusing the restaurant owners and others involved with the businesses of illegally obtaining the money.

The Tippecanoe County lawsuit accuses at least 25 restaurants of carrying out offenses including money laundering and falsifying tax documents. It doesn't detail the allegations.

No criminal charges have been filed stemming from the November raids and the investigation continues, Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/1msVSX3 ).

The raids involved several El Rodeo restaurants in the Lafayette, Indianapolis and Richmond areas, along with restaurants under the El Jaripeo, Los Toros or La Carreta names around Indianapolis, northwestern Indiana and Vincennes in southwestern Indiana.

The Associated Press left a message Wednesday seeking comment from Richard Kiefer, an Indianapolis attorney for the restaurants.

Jose Bustos, manager of the El Rodeo restaurant in West Lafayette, is named as one of the individual defendants. He said he wasn't aware the lawsuits had been filed.

"I don't have any comments right now because our lawyers are still working on it. They don't tell us anything," Bustos told the Journal & Courier.

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that to win the civil forfeiture case, prosecutors must prove that the money was obtained illegally.

"The object of civil forfeiture is to take away the ill-gotten gains and put (the assets) into the criminal justice system," he said.

The lawsuit also asks that the defendants be ordered to give up any interests in the named restaurants and that the owners be prevented from reorganizing their businesses.

The suit seeks the revocation of any professional licenses the defendants obtained from the state.

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Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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