The owners or former owners of a chain of restaurants in six Indiana counties have been charged with underreporting more than $8 million in sales from 2014 to 2016, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced Thursday afternoon.
The chain of seven restaurants includes two in Marion County and one in Plainfield, he said.
Seven individuals involved face Level five and Level Six felony charges of corrupt business influence, theft and failure to remit taxes:
— Shuai Li, co-owner of Teppanyaki Grill Supreme Buffet, 9701 E. Washington St., in Indianapolis;
— Guang Feng Li, co-owner of Teppanyaki Grill Supreme Buffet, 9701 E. Washington St., in Indianapolis, and China King Feng LLC, 2535 E. Main St., in Plainfield;
— Sheng Yi Li, owner of Teppanyaki West Inc., 5390 W. 38th St., Indianapolis;
— Chunhua Wang, owner of Teppanyaki Grill Super Buffet Inc., 2641 Maple Point Drive, Lafayette;
— Guo Wu Wu, owner of Teppanyaki Supreme Buffet 285 Inc., 285 E. Colliseum Blvd., Fort Wayne;
— Jin Qui Zhao, owner of Teppanyaki Buffet Inc., 1310 W. 38th St., Marion;
— Ji Rong Lin, owner of Hokkaido Japanese Buffet Inc., 380 S. Highway 41, Terre Haute.
Level Five felonies typically call for sentences of one to six years. Level Six felonies typically call for sentences of six months to 30 months.
IBJ could not reach the individuals facing charges for comment Thursday afternoon.
The Teppanyaki Grill Supreme Buffet at 9701 E. Washington St. is under new ownership and has changed its name to Daily Buffet & Grill. And the China King in Plainfield is now called Fu Yuan.
Curry said those who were charged collectively owe nearly $675,000 in sales taxes and food and beverage taxes to the state.
"The filing of these charges is yet another example of our work to hold accountable those who we believe are playing by their own rules, often to the disadvantage of other businesses in our community," Curry said in written comments.
The prosecutor’s office said an investigation launched in October 2014 found nearly identical criminal practices at each restaurants.
“Evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation allegedly demonstrated that the defendants engaged in “cash skimming” to conceal and underreport cash sales,” investigators said. “The restaurants are believed to have underreported the percentage of cash sales, which allegedly constituted 46 percent of sales. However, the restaurants typically reported to the Indiana Department of Revenue that cash sales were less than five percent of their sales.”
Law enforcement agencies seized assets from the restaurants in a civil forfeiture action worth $40,185, Curry said.
The cases have been assigned to Marion County Criminal Court 2. No hearing dates have been scheduled.