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

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

deertracker

Where are they coming up with all this cash? Their restaurants do accept credit cards. If some of you weren't so anti-government you would see something is fishy here. PAY ATTENTION! The gig is up and now you are BUSTED!

DGMutley

deertracker,
Aren't most restaurant tabs paid with cash? It doesn't sound unreasonable to me to have large amounts of cash in the restaurant business, especially one as successful as they have been.

deertracker

I do not know the exact ratio but a lot also use credit cards. I worked in restaurants far busier and was responsible for making deposits at some. The 10k amount would be no big deal if the deposit was accompanied by a restaurant deposit slip. You have to have really good sales to accumulate 10k in cash in one day and most restaurants make daily deposits.

Think Deeper

Drug dealers also use cash.

mikel

tracker - whenever i go out to eat i pay cash.

deertracker

Does your bill come to 10k?

Krissy3

Nope mine doesn't come up to 10k and I doubt they bring in over 10k in CASH sales at a single business in 24 hrs. I tend to use my debit card pretty often when I eat out only because I don't usually carry much cash on me and most people I know don't either.

deertracker

It's amazing and comical how some of you are just willing to look the other way if the people are rich but if your common criminal gets busted you same people are judge, jury and executioner. I can't say these are bad people but they just may be doing something illegal. Don't you have to follow the laws? I do. What exempts these people? Their looks? Please??

Think Deeper

People are mad because they have to go somewhere else for drugs now.

Krissy3

They don't sell drugs! At least the ones I know don't. 2 out of 5.

The Big Dog's back

You are so right deertracker. I don't know what it is that these people would fall on a sword for the rich. Somebody explain it to me. These people are cheating your children, your community, out of tax money.

Darwin's choice

All those law enforcement people have to justify their jobs........but the real criminals in Washington are exempt......!

The Big Dog's back

The "real" criminals? Why are the rich exempt from obeying the law?

Centauri

The storm troopers come after the unarmed citizens with assault rifles while the corrupt government officials are ignored and get a free pass.

Cowboy

Time for deportation!

Think Deeper

Yeah, better not arrest any thieves, wife beaters, or drug dealers. There are crooked politicians that exist. Is this really your point?

Cowboy

Just hop on the bus Gus! Make a new plan Stan!

Cowboy

Time for deportation!

DGMutley

It seems to me if my memory serves me that this family was investigated a couple years ago for the same thing. Anybody remember?

Hoss McGee

That's what I was thinking also! I wasn't sure though.

Truth or Dare

Maybe when the Govt. starts following their own laws/rules that they pass and enforce, rather than hypocritically enforcing them.... if you don't think there aren't BILLIONS being transported into offshore bank accounts to avoid paying taxes on profits, you live life with blinders on. Large corps./businesses do this everyday. Pharmacutical companies are really good at it,

You know what else they do, they scam illegal documentation for human trafficking purposes, bringing others into this country to work for them and in some cases never hold up their end of the bargain. Fair pay, a decent place to live. Some companies didn't anticipate their slave labor to rise up and seek representation, to be brave enough to testify. The results? Millions paid in restitution, a black mark against the business, but nothing confiscated as they're trying to do here for a measly 1.5 Million. Can't do that, it would upset far too many big businesses, their investors and would ruffle political feathers!

deertracker

Sounds like some of the same was going on here. It is not illegal to use an offshore acct but that is not the issue here. A measly 1.5 million? Wow!

Think Deeper

So everybody can do whatever the hell they want, lie murder cheat steal? Is that your point?

THED0N

That is a lot of cash to hide.

Think Deeper

Cocaine is a helluva drug.

DGMutley

Think Deeper,

You sound like an expert on cocaine. What's with all the accusations? Sounds like thin ice to me.

Think Deeper

I am an expert.

laker1

Interesting. A family with no history of violence but issues with sums of money going out of the country in ammounts smaller than $10,000 per transaction. It took 14 vehicles, and an untold number of armed men with unlimited firepower to issue a warrant. Maybe they could have used the local Sheriff and a couple deputies and 1 or 2 federal agents. Now its reported they want to confisgate their real estate and personal property including vehicles. Maybe we are living in a foriegn country like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. I thought one had to be convicted of a crime before the government can take anything including your freedom. Of course, in the new USSA we see the government confisgating large banks, auto companies and not compensating the stock holders. It is said we now live in a post Constitutional Country and we have no civil rights.

Think Deeper

No history of violence? I personally saw one of the sons literally spit in a woman's face. Ask any bar around this town. They know.

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