FBI, Border Patrol agents descended, serving search warrant

Known more for its multi-million-dollar homes, a gated Sandusky community played host to a federal raid Monday as armed agents descended on one house in hopes of uncovering an alleged scheme involving tax evasion and international money-smuggling.
Emil Whitis
Apr 9, 2013

The suspects, members of the Gonos family, own the Dianna’s Deli restaurants in Perkins Township and Port Clinton, as well as the Depot Family Restaurant in Sandusky.  

Armed with assault rifles and a search warrant, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security-Office of Inspector General stormed the family’s $671,000 home at 858 Crosstree Lane at about 8:30 a.m.  

Haralambos Gonos, 52; Andreas Gonos, 28; Chris Gonos, 31; Kryiakos Gonos, 30; and Sofia Skoura, 52, all of Crosstree Lane, were all indicted in U.S. Federal Court on charges of conspiracy to structure financial transactions to evade filing currency transaction reports and conspiracy to structure financial transactions to evade filing form 8300. 

In short, the indictment alleges they were making cash deposits of less than $10,000 apiece to dodge federal laws on reporting banking transactions. 

According to the indictment, investigators are now trying to seize about $1.5 million in assets from the family, including two high-end sports cars. 

Haralambos, owner of the Dianna’s Deli restaurants and the Depot restaurant, was indicted alongside Skoura on an additional single count of conspiracy to engage in bulk cash smuggling. 

A caravan of about 14 unmarked federal vehicles screeched down Crosstree Lane shortly after dawn, stopping outside the Gonos home, where agents jumped out with guns drawn and surrounded the place, witnesses said. 

“I was just sitting here and all of a sudden all these cars come speeding down the street,” neighbor Neal Sabino said. “They came loaded for bear — flack jackets and all.” 

When Neal and his wife, Nancy Sabino, went out to check on the commotion, agents ordered them to go back inside. 

“Then this big guy with a SWAT uniform, holding an M16, said, ‘Please, go back in your house,’” Sabino said. “I’m just amazed. That kind of stuff isn’t supposed to happen around here.” 

Agents went into the home and quickly emerged with a woman. Border Patrol agents escorted the woman to an SUV, then drove her away from the scene. 

Sabino said he never knew the Gonos to be violent or troublesome. 

“They just kind of kept to themselves,” he said. 

Still, there was one thing kind of strange, Nancy recalled. Almost every summer before the family headed back to their native Greece, a large shipping container would appear in front of the the Gonos home. The container would sit there for a few weeks. Then, just as it appeared, it’d be gone, she said. 

Erie County commissioner Bill Monaghan, who lives two doors down from the Gonos family, said he left at about 7 a.m. Monday and noticed two Border Patrol SUVs parked outside the neighborhood.  

“I was thinking, ‘I wonder what these guys are doing over here,” he said. 

He soon had his answer. When he returned home about an hour later, there were about a dozen cars parked outside the Gonos home.  

“Texas license plates, Illinois license plates, Michigan license plates,” Monaghan said.  

According to a federal indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Haralambos and Skoura got busted by U.S. Customs agents in January at Detroit Metro Airport, carrying a total of $14,736 between the two of them. They were trying to board a flight to Amsterdam. Federal law demands travelers carrying more than $10,000 report it at customs. 

The federal indictment lists dozens of transactions in 2007, 2008 and 2009, most in amounts ranging from about $2,000 to $9,500. The indictment alleges “all of the Gonos family members regularly ‘skim’ cash generated from their restaurants, which they have used for personal purposes.” 

“Since 2005, the members of the Gonos family have made over 200 deposits totaling over $1.8 million in cash at numerous financial institutions,” the indictment states.

While depositing money into a bank account isn’t a crime, the method the Gonos family used to deposit their money was criminal, the indictment states.  

Federal law requires banks to report any deposit over $10,000. The Gonos made multiple deposits under $10,000 over a short period of time in order to avoid mandatory reporting, according to the indictment. Federal investigators said the deposits amounted to tax evasion. 

Dianna’s Deli in Perkins Township was still taking orders at 7 p.m. Monday. 

It’s unclear if all five family members have been arrested and, if so, where they’re being held. U.S. Attorney spokesman Mike Tobin did not return multiple voicemails left Monday at his office.

Comments

William Jeffers...

If the law states one must report over $10,000 deposited, then depositing less than $10,000 is not a violation, also if not allowed to carry over $10,000 each traveling, then it is mathematically possible for 2 people with a combined $14,736 to also not be in violation. There is something else going on here or more to the law then has been stated like an aggregate amount ??

FlyBoy86

I think where they are getting at is the entire amount of the transaction where they received money was greater than $10,000.00 USD. By not declaring the entire transaction amount on 8300, it looks like laundering. In regards to the aviation question, they should clarify and state that it's the entire reservation cannot be greater than $10,000.00. If they were both traveling under the same reservation, then they would be in violation. Remember, when at the airport in a sterile area, you are subject to greater scrutiny as you are on "Federal Government Property". It'll be an interesting case for sure.

DGMutley

FlyBoy66,
This is pretty flimsy isn't it if this one incident is being used to support a "smuggling money" charge?

FlyBoy86

There are laundering issues since the 8300 wasn't filled out. If they didn't fill out the 8300 because the person depositing it was a "Non-Resident Alien" there are certain tax regulations that have to be followed. That's where the ICE agents come in.

DGMutley

There is no crime taking the money out of the country except they didn't fill the form out(not 8300)--small stuff.

The article alludes to income tax evasion and the 8300 form but the indictments don't indicate any crime except not filling out CTR forms.

The bank won’t let anyone deposit or withdraw 10,000 or over without filling out a Currency Transaction Report (CTR).

The 8300 form is different in that it is required to be filed to the IRS from the business when the business receives 10,000 or greater in one or related transactions in a 24 hour period--i.e. someone buys 10,000 in goods.

Money laundering would be the business trying to process illegitimate money through the business to make it look legitimate—i.e. an illegal drug profit put into the business deposit to make it look like a restaurant receipt.

They allude to "skimming" which would be not ringing up transactions to avoid reporting--income tax evasion.

That's my take on it.

Think Deeper

"i.e. an illegal drug profit put into the business deposit to make it look like a restaurant receipt."

wait for it......

FlyBoy86

It is a crime to take more than $10,000.00 outside the country without filing FinCEN Form 105.

KnowledgeIsPower

Bringing 14,000 dollars to Europe would last me 1 month tops. It is not that much money. Europe is expensive. Also the 14,000 dollars was more than likely cut in half between the two individuals. An average lawyer would be able to drop that charge easily.

Krissy3

Exactly... They tend to stay for long periods of time when they go as well. It's not like they were trying to take 14k for a weekend getaway...

Only on the beach

I would like to think positive that they did nothing wrong but I think there is more to the story than we know. I dont think the government would go through all this trouble for nothing, blindly. I'm sure they did their research.

Krissy3

I can pretty much guarantee their cheap food did not bring in 10k in cash per day, certainly not in a single transaction. We have a retail business and we do far more credit card transactions than cash. I'd say average cash transactions for the day is about 3-4k and maximum is about 8k (which is usually around Christmas). I don't see why they would have even needed to file a form 8300.

Krissy3

And while they are alleging the family was skimming they are not being charged with tax evasion.

KnowledgeIsPower

Your retail business is not a restaurant ma'am. There is no comparison to be done here in regards to your retail business. It just is not relevant. Diana's Deli is located on St. Rt. 250 which catches massive amounts of Cedar Point & Lake Erie tourist traffic. In the winter months I would assume that they do about 3-4k per day & maximum 10 during the holidays. However, during the summer, that place is jam packed. The parking lots and seats are always full when I drive by. The last time that I was there I ordered 2 meals. 2 burgers with 2 orders of fries & 2 coca colas. The bill came out to about 22 dollars. I would assume that they get about 1200 customers per day in the summer at about 9-13 dollars each. Your figures are way off and their food isn't cheap. It was actually extraordinary relative to the price unlike that "Bistro" in the area.

DGMutley

There isn't any differentiation between retail businesses as far the filing ctr or 8300 forms.

Krissy3

Thank you DG... A business is a business. The forms are the same and the requirements are the same. Their food is cheap compared to others in the area. I have never spent over 5.00 for a meal during breakfast or lunch at Diannas before the tip, which is the servers responsibility to report. You pay more for a value meal at McDonald's. Cedar Point is only open a few months out of the year and there are tons of other places to eat competing with their businesses. Again, I highly doubt they are making 10k in cash sales in 24 hours...

Krissy3

I pass Diana's on my way to and from work everyday and I have never seen it packed. Maybe they are packed in the evenings after I get off of work or maybe on the weekends but I have never seen the kind of traffic you are talking about, other than during the summer months when all of Sanduskys retailers do better business...

Krissy3

And I was saying that's what OUR business averages in cash and credit on a daily basis, not theirs, so no my figures aren't off...

Random Thoughts

Story makes it sound like the New World Order has arrived. Were there also soldiers there with blue helmets? Seriously though, yesterday's Register article said it was the IRS there searching (tax case). Now it's the FBI. Tomorrow it will be the DEA (with blue helmets). Check your facts Register.

Brainiac2007

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks advocating illegal or violent actions.

Brainiac2007

Still=stiff

tzu4u

This is scary. I hope this family gets a good lawyer and fights this case. I find it terrifying that our government is pouring over our financial transactions looking for deposits under 10,000.00 when our elected officials stash their money in off-shore accounts. Big Brother is watching YOU.

Bankers brought this country down, and not one has gone to jail. But a restaurant owner is having his property confiscated for how often and where he deposits his money?????

Factitious

Agree that Wall Street Cheaters deserve the same treatment or worse, but can't see any defense to anyone's large-scale cheating.

Think Deeper

There's more to the story than just the money.

Krissy3

Really, then what is it? No tax evasion charges, only supposedly conspiring to structure deposits under 10k and trying to take over 10k between 2 people to a country where the have a home, family, and tend to stay for long periods at a time.

PussycatPatrol

Is this the same people who own Dianna's Deli in Avon Lake?

SamAdams

I agree: Tax evasion is a crime. But this? This sounds a lot more like government meddling in private finances than it resembles anything else. And yet there's a full-blown SWAT team, felony indictments, and probably more on the boards. In the absence of tax evasion, the only crimes committed here seem to me to have been committed by the feds! And to think we used to be free...

Krissy3

Agreed! They are being charged for conspiring to structure bank deposits? For taking over 10k between two people to a country where they have a home, family, and tend to stay for weeks or months when they go? For buying cars with cash? For having more than one bank account between 5 people and 3 businesses?

The Big Dog's back

Stop it already sam.

theconcernresident

yeah its pretty sad these boys have to go thru this im not sure where these people are coming up with drug smuggling either these boys are not criminals they are hard working Americans that made deposits of their hard working dollars and not of more than 10,000 hmmm the government just wants more of their money its funny how they say they took money from Dianas I mean it is their place of business who don't take money from their own hard earned money

Think Deeper

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