Eighteen people indicted for roles in criminal schemes involving IHOP restaurants, FBI says
(CBS/AP) CLEVELAND, Ohio - Authorities indicted 18 people on Wednesday in an IHOP crime ring that resulted in more than $3 million in losses at seven restaurants and the use of 200 illegal immigrants to work at them, CBS Cleveland reports.
"These defendants turned pancakes houses into crime dens," said U.S. State Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach for the Northern District of Ohio in a press release. "This indictment lays out a menu of crimes ranging from harboring undocumented workers to identity theft to money laundering to insurance fraud."
The 64-count indictment lists Tarek Elkafraw as the leader of the group, who also owned the seven IHOPS across Ohio and Indiana. Elkafraw allegedly manipulated sales figures, salaries and payrolls to evade taxes and illegally divert money from the franchises to himself and others.
Authorities say Elkafraw also hired 200 illegal immigrants, many of whom used stolen or fraudulent identities to work at his restaurants. Elkefraw is also accused of receiving over $1 million in fraudulent insurance claims for facilitating an arson that destroyed one of his IHOPs in 2008.
In the press release, Special Agent Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI Cleveland office said the arrests were "the culmination of years of joint investigative work by the FBI and its partners to root out the corporate fraud," adding that businesses who choose to operate fraudulent and illegal activity "will continue to be a top FBI priority."
Prosecutors are now looking to seize Elkafraw's Indiana home along with the seven IHOP restaurants.
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