FARMINGTON HILLS (WWJ/AP) - The founder of a Detroit-area pizza chain is promising a vigorous defense to federal charges of conspiracy and tax crimes.
The government says Happy Asker was holding more than pepperoni at Happy's Pizza. The indictment accuses him and others of keeping fraudulent accounting records and falsely reporting business taxes that were due to the Internal Revenue Service.
The scheme allegedly ran from 2004 through 2011. According to the indictment, the franchises paid more than $2.1 million in unreported wages to employees and shareholders over those years.
Asker appeared in Detroit federal court Tuesday and was released on bond.
In a statement out Wednesday, Happy's Pizza says the allegations are "baseless":
"We are gratified that the speculation and innuendo that accompanied the federal government's raid of our corporate offices has ended. In August of 2010, nearly 30 DEA, ATF and IRS agents stormed the corporate offices of Happy's Pizza Franchise and seized all business and personal records to much hype and media speculation. Today, after nearly three years of investigation and with the full cooperation of our company, it was finally revealed that neither the DEA nor the ATF found any evidence of wrongdoing.
"The present indictment of founder Happy Asker is premised solely on the alleged underreporting of income by 7 of our 100 independently owned and operated franchisee restaurants. Over 3 years, the IRS utilized its immense resources to exhaustively investigate all 100 of our franchisee restaurants in over 6 states as well as the supporting businesses and employees that make up the Happy's Pizza system to ultimately allege irregularities in tax reporting.
"As stated by the Department of Justice in their press release on this case, all Americans, even those facing a seemingly imposing indictment, are presumed innocent. With the continued support of our franchisees, employees, business associates and, most importantly, our loyal customers, we look forward to continuing regular business operations while vigorously defending our founder against these baseless allegations."
The government says the crimes involved nine Happy's Pizza franchises. The Farmington Hills-based company says it has 100 independently owned and operated locations in Michigan and other states.
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