The FBI says this elaborate scheme has been going on for years -- and it's resulted in losses of more than $3 million. Among those arrested was Tarek Omar, the manager of the Evansville IHOP.
From a house of pancakes, to a house of crime. When federal agents raided seven IHOP restaurants in Ohio and Indiana last September, they say they found a lengthy menu of crimes.
Now the FBI says its indicted 18 people on a 64-count indictment for charges that include money laundering, identity theft, alien harboring and insurance fraud. Among those arrested is Evansville IHOP manager Tarek Omar.
The FBI says Omar, franchise owner Tarek "Terry" Elkafrawi, Kelly Elkafrawi and an individual known as M.K. bought real estate to hide and conceal the source of money derived from their alleged criminal schemes. Officials say Elkafrawi bought Omar's home at 10400 Tecumseh Drive in Newburgh using laundered money.
Next-door-neighbor Terry Kellems says last fall Omar told him there was nothing to the IHOP raid. "He came over and said that it was bogus, basically. That it was all gonna be cleared up and that they really wasn't at him they was after, I guess his boss," says Kellems.
Kellems says the indictments on his neighbor don't surprise him. "Not the way I see money fly and the type of vehicles they drive. I mean, I know IHOP makes good money -- but not what I've seen," says Kellems. "I don't trust him. I mean, I never have."
The U.S. Attorney's Office says prosecutors are seeking to seize Omar's Newburgh home, in addition to more than $37 thousand, the seven IHOP franchises, a dozen bank accounts and several vehicles.
The FBI says Elkafrawi employed about 200 illegal immigrants at his seven IHOP franchises. It says many of these workers had fake or stolen identities, and in some cases Elkafrawi and others arranged for others to help undocumented workers get false or fraudulent paperwork. The FBI found many of these workers were underpaid, and even assigned second identities to avoid paying overtime. It says Elkafrawi and others made about $1.2 million in unreported income by manipulating wages and under reporting the income of undocumented workers.
The FBI says Elkafrawi and others used their positions at the restaurants execute fraudulent activity. According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office the 64-count indictment accuses those involved in the scheme of manipulating sales figures, salaries, and payrolls to evade taxes, avoid paying royalties, and illegally divert money from the IHOP franchises to themselves.
An indictment represents a charge and doesn't mean a person is guilty.
For more details on the alleged scheme, click here.
PREVIOUS REPORT: Last September, the FBI raided seven IHOP Restaurants, including six in Ohio, and one in Evansville. Agents were seen loading boxes at the restaurants, however, what they were looking for remained secret.
Today, Eyewitness News has learned of a 65 count indictment, naming a number of IHOP employees, including Tarek Omar, who at the time of the raid, was a manager at the IHOP on Burkhardt Road in Evansville. According to WTVG TV in Toledo, OH, the charges include money laundering, mail and wire schemes, aggravated theft, harboring nearly 200 illegal aliens, and unauthorized remittance of checks. The indictment states, as a result of the allegations, all of the defendants must forfeit cash and property, including a home in Newburgh, in the name of Tarek Elkafrawi, who is also named in the indictment.
Those named in the indictment are all in custody. They are:
- Tarak Elkafrawi
- Tarek Eid Omar
- Autumn Lee Tangas
- Kelly Elkafrawi
- Jose Leon-Gonzalez
- Carlos Gamboa
- Khaled Yousef
- Jamil Mohammed Awwad
- Ramiz Awwad
- Khalil Aboudakka
- Mahmoud Ali
- Mohamed Hassan
- Donna J. Harriott
- Lucky Williams
- Sara Rinebolt
- Cesar Avila
- Mark Anthony Turner
- Yoni Merida