Saturday, June 7, 2008

Four Don Juan's restaurant employees arrested in identity fraud investigation (News Leader)

Four Don Juan's restaurant employees arrested in identity fraud investigation

By Brad Zinn/staff • • June 6, 2008

FISHERSVILLE — Authorities have charged four employees at Don Juan’s restaurant on U.S. 250 with identity and fraud charges, according to Virginia State Police.

Ten more Don Juan’s employees could be arrested in an ever-growing investigation that now involves the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service. The probe began with a simple traffic stop nearly three weeks ago.

On May 19, a Virginia State Police trooper stopped a vehicle driven by Crisogono Hernandez, 23, at the intersection of Barterbrook Road and Frontier Drive. Hernandez told the trooper he worked at Don Juan’s in Fishersville, according to a search warrant filed in Augusta County Circuit Court.

The trooper, T.M. Simmons, said Hernandez had fraudulent identification.

“It was determined through my investigation that Mr. Hernandez is an illegal alien,” Simmons said in the warrant.

The next day, Simmons spoke to an assistant manager who runs both Don Juan’s restaurants in Fishersville and Verona, according to the warrant. After Simmons requested documentation on about 15 employees, he said the assistant manager “became extremely nervous, sweating profusely and shaking.” The trooper said he watched as the assistant manager purposely skipped over papers inside a file cabinet.

Simmons said he checked Social Security numbers and resident cards on five employees and determined the cards were counterfeit.

“... there is reason to believe similar illegal behavior and employment practices are taking place at both establishments,” Simmons stated in the warrant.

State police said some of the identity thefts involved U.S. citizens, both living and deceased.

Subsequently, 58 employee records at the Fishersville restaurant were obtained along with 47 employee records from the Verona establishment, court records show.

On Friday, police arrested Norberto Reguldo-Leon, 37, of Roanoke; Pedro Calderon-Frias, 23, of Waynesboro; and Jorge A. Rodriguez Perez, 27, of Roanoke. They were apprehended at Don Juan’s in Fishersville. The three men and Hernandez are being held at Middle River Regional Jail in Verona. All four face charges of forgery of a public record, uttering a forged document and identity theft. Additional charges involving tax fraud may be levied, state police said.

News of the identity fraud arrests comes less than two months after the owner of the two restaurants, Juan Lopez-Aguirre, was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison for his role in a drug ring suspected of distributing more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine.

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