BATESVILLE — posted Sept. 26, 2:15 p.m.:
After Indiana State Excise Police spent two years investigating workers and their activities at Acapulco Mexican restaurants in Batesville, Versailles, Lawrenceburg, Rising Sun and Aurora, they seized “roughly $3 million in U.S. currency, 12 vehicles and an undisclosed amount of foreign currency” in eight cities while completing 18 search warrants Sept. 24, said ISEP Cpl. Travis Thickstun, public information officer, Indianapolis.
Forty-one restaurant employees were arrested and transported to the Dearborn County Jail, Lawrenceburg. Four have Batesville addresses: Eduardo Carranza, 26; Rafael Estrada, 34; Miguel Geronimo, 24; and Jose Lopez, 42, according to the online Dearborn County Sheriff’s Office current inmate search.
Thickstun said excise officers are continuing to look for more suspects.
Officers were processing evidence Sept. 25 seized from the five restaurants, five banks in southeast Indiana, two banks in Lafayette, a Greenwood tax-preparation service, four residences and two vehicles. That afternoon Thickstun did not have time to respond to questions. “We’re still counting money.”
At close to 10 p.m. that night, he said by e-mail, “Because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, not much beyond what is included in the probable cause affidavit is able to be released.”
In that 11-page document, filed in Dearborn Circuit Court Sept. 24, Timothy Sutton, ISEP District 4 investigator, gave examples of alleged wrongdoing.
On Feb. 1, 2011, Indiana Department of Revenue Agent Rick Albrecht (since retired) reviewed the federal income tax return, bank statements, cancelled checks, Z portion of cash register tapes, income statements and payroll records of Batesville’s Acapulco No. 6 Mexican Restaurant at the Greenwood accounting office. 2009 cash register tapes showed the machine was frequently closed before the business closed. Albrecht advised Sutton this indicated an underreporting of gross sales.
Albrecht also believed Benito Lopez, 49, Batesville, and Adolfo Lopez, 43, Lawrenceburg (who equally own the Batesville business with Abel Bustos, 50, Lafayette), were underreporting gross sales in a different way. “The markup from purchases to sales is 2.15,” the affidavit stated. “From prior audits, it was determined that Mexican restaurants selling food and alcoholic beverages will normally have a markup rate of 4 to 7 times the purchase price. Acapulco No. 6 falls well below these expected markup rates. Almost no cash deposits were made by Acapulco No. 6. Normally a restaurant will have cash deposits of 25 percent or greater. Acapulco No. 6 had cash deposits of 4.75 percent.”
The agent had meals at four of the restaurants. At the Lawrenceburg, Rising Sun and Aurora locations, each time Albrecht went to pay, the cash register door was open and the transaction was not rung up on the cash register. “At all locations, including the Batesville location, the bill was calculated on an adding machine tape ... (which) was attached to the customer guest check, which detailed the food and drink ordered. At none of the four locations did Agent Albrecht receive a cash register tape when payment was made,” according to the document.
Because not all cash collected from sales was being documented, Sutton noted “sales tax was not being remitted to the Indiana Department of Revenue on the undocumented sales.”
He discovered the “businesses all operate in a similar manner .... Hispanic individuals ... employed by the restaurants were using fraudulent Social Security numbers and their employment records were not consistent.”
In the charging information document filed Sept. 24 in Dearborn Circuit Court, the list showed all 110 persons had Hispanic last names, eight simply with Social Security numbers and no known addresses.
The affidavit said, “Approximately 80 names were verified to be invalid and the Social Security numbers used by Acapulco employees had owners who were deceased, never issued, a minor or issued to somebody other than the employee from Acapulco.” Sutton also verified through his investigation several additional employees with fraudulent Social Security numbers
Among the 29 with Batesville addresses, Benito Lopez was charged with corrupt business influence, conspiracy to commit corrupt business influence and forgery, Class C felonies, and perjury, a Class D felony.
In addition to Eduardo Carranza, Rafael Estrada, Miguel Geronimo and Jose Lopez, 24 with Batesville addresses were charged with corrupt business influence and conspiracy to commit corrupt business influence, Class C felonies, and identity deception, a Class D felony: Arturo Camargo, Gerardo Camargo, Griselda Carranza, Jose Deloto, Armando Garcia, Juan Garcia, Alvaro Ixtepan, Sebastian Lira, Javier Lopez, Juan Lopez, Luis Lopez, Nicholas Lopez, Omar Lopez, Noe Mendoza, Leoncio Munos, Emilio Ortega, Adan Plasencia, Eduardo Rendon, Francisco Rivera, Jose Rodriguez, Benito Ruiz, Gerardo Tiburcio, Oscar Vazquez and Jose Xolo.
ISEP Superintendent Matt Strittmatter said Sept. 25, “Yesterday’s arrests and seizures demonstrate how the regulatory responsibilities of the state excise police often lead to other criminal violations. The collaboration between our agency, the Dearborn County prosecutor and local law enforcement agencies was crucial to the success of this case.”
posted Sept. 24, 4:41 p.m.:
At exactly 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 24, Indiana State Excise Police officers began serving search warrants at 13 businesses and four residences in eight cities across Indiana, including Acapulco No. 6 Mexican Restaurant, Batesville, said Cpl. Travis Thickstun, ISEP public information officer, Indianapolis, who was standing in front of the restaurant to brief the media.
Midday diners were greeted by a CLOSED sign at Acapulco’s entrance.
Simultaneously, excise officers also were serving 108 arrest warrants to owners and employees working at five restaurant locations after an 18-month investigation into the use of fraudulent and stolen Social Security numbers.
At least eight Batesville restaurant employees were arrested and initially charged with identity deception. They were transported to the Dearborn County Jail, Lawrenceburg, according to Thickstun.
At 1:30 p.m. ISEP officers were still at the Batesville business, interviewing a female and getting ready to drill a safe, one said.
The public information officer explained, “Officers are looking for evidence of corrupt business influence, money laundering, forgery, perjury, identity deception and theft.” He said the money laundering was “not necessarily” due to drug sales.
Excise police officers also served search warrants at these locations: an undisclosed residence in Batesville; Acapulco No. 11 Mexican Restaurant,Versailles; Acapulco No. 3 Mexican Restaurant, Lawrenceburg; Acapulco No. 5 Mexican Restaurant, Rising Sun; Acapulco No. 8 Mexican Restaurant, Aurora; and an undisclosed residence in Lafayette.
The officers also searched five banks in southeast Indiana, two other banks in Lafayette and the offices of a tax-preparation service in Greenwood. Thickstun pointed out, “The banks didn't do anything wrong.” He added, “We’re seizing quite a bit of money today ... It will be a substantial amount,” but he didn’t have a dollar figure yet.
“It will be some time before we have finalized charges” because of the amount of evidence being collected and taken to ISEP Indianapolis offices. “Based on what's found, the appropriate charges will be pursued.”
Excise officers have been assisted throughout their investigation by the Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit, Dearborn County Sheriff's Office, Lawrenceburg Police Department and Indiana Department of Revenue.
Indiana State Excise Police officers are the enforcement division of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. While excise officers have the authority to enforce any state law, they focus primarily on alcohol, tobacco and related violations.
Thickstun reminded, “All criminal and administrative-law defendants are to be presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”