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

Krissy3

You saw ONE of them spit in someone's face? There are 5 people involved in this, not one. Last time I checked spitting in someone's face is disrespectful and disgusting, not necessarily violent.

CP_bay

Time to investigate for illegal immigrants working in all their restaurants

OSUBuckeye59

As I wrote in a separate posting, the family put themselves on the IRS radar when with the simple and relatively inexpensive help of a CPA or Tax Attorney they could've stayed out of the IRS cross-hairs.

In terms of our federal government confiscating large banks & auto companies yet "not compensating the stock holders", this is no different than what happens when a publicly-traded company goes bankrupt: there's a payout pecking order, and those who are holding common shares receive pennies on their stocks at best and zero payout at worst. When Enron's utter & total corrupt financial practices were brought out into the light of day and their stock dropped like water rushing over Niagara Falls, those employees and individuals investors holding common shares of stock didn't recover anything. This is why I like to call investing in the Stock Market legalized gambling...one can be on a great run yet have everything wiped out instantaneously.

The Big Dog's back

Get real laker1.

2cents

So when I have to pull an EBT slip from the machine to clear it, every time I put in real money to buy groceries, can I deduct that EBT because it was my $$ that were spent from my taxes in the first place. This country is out of control, please Mr. President, can I go with you for golf lessons on Air Force 1 at $180,000.00 an hour to operate?

The Big Dog's back

Big Dog's Law has been invoked.

The Big Dog's back

"bout time they started jailing these people. Clean out the rest of these rich neighborhoods. The rich think they are above the law. Jail "em.

2cents

Starting at the Whitehouse?

Now The Rest of...

Including the high ranking democrappers who live there?

OSUBuckeye59

Large corporations hire and retain finance law experts who find and exploit the loopholes in our corporate tax structure, thus allowing these companies to legally reduce their tax liability at the federal and state level.

For businesses such as what the Gonos family as a whole run, they have to be squeaky clean when it comes to any financial transactions. My accountant has shared stories with me about how the IRS has "trip points" that, when "tripped", kick off a quick investigation to see if further action might be warranted. One example: let's say you've opened up a new business. Being a new business, your first few years may be lean, or outright unprofitable. But if in year 4, after 3 straight years of reporting losses, if you again report a loss, even minimal, your financial records have to be complete and spotless as you're almost assured to get audited as the IRS will be asking, "How can you stay in business if you keep losing money?"

With the Gonos family, from what little I've read in the SR article, I'm guessing they have been making numerous cash deposits, with each individual deposit being less than $10,000.00 in whole, but I'm guessing 2 or 3 of these deposits, with these 2 or 3 deposits being made within days of each other, summed together exceeded $10,000.00. If all of this is true, the Gonos family would then be required to file a form 8300. The law requires any person engaged in a trade or business who receives more than $10,000 in cash in any one transaction, or two or more related transactions, to report the transaction to the IRS within 15 days of receipt of the cash on Form 8300. The law also requires that a properly filed Form 8300 contains the correct cash payer's name, address and tax identification number, as well as the amount of cash received and the date and nature of the transaction. With the Gonos family, their frequent depositing of cash received from their restaurants would be seen by the IRS as same/similar events requiring the filing of form 8300.

All of the cash the Gonos have and have been depositing may be 100% earned from their restaurants. It may all be "clean". I have zero knowledge on this. Their only crime may be not having a good Accountant or Tax Attorney advising them.

DGMutley

It doesn't sound reasonable that a restaurant business has to file an 8300 form every time it accumulates 10,000 in cash receipts (500-700 customers). The 8300 form requires customer participation in filling out the form.

Krissy3

Two or more related transactions within 24 hours or one transaction are the requirements. If they were doing it over a period of days the form is not required. Besides, the bank would have been required to fill out the form for the deposits, not the family. The family only needed to file the form if they made 10k in cash sales in 24 hours.

OSUBuckeye59

@Krissy3, thank you for the clarification and correction.

DGMutley

The 8300 form requires the customer's name, address, taxpayer id (ssn), and occupation. The bank can't fill it out because it doesn't have the info. That's why it is unreasonable to think a restaurant (or any retail business for that matter) would have to fill out 500 8300 forms for 500 customers buying $20 worth of food or merchandise.

Krissy3

I was talking about the bank filing the forms for the bank deposits DG, not their retail sales. I stated that I doubted they would have over 10k in cash sales in 24 hours so they would not have had to file that form.

OSUBuckeye59

I did some more Internet searching and found the following:

Bank Secrecy Act, Anti-Money Laundering, Examination Manual, APPENDIX F: MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING "RED FLAGS"

"The following are examples of potentially suspicious activities, or "red flags" for both money laundering and terrorist financing. Although these lists are not all-inclusive, they may help banks and examiners recognize possible money laundering and terrorist financing schemes. Management’s primary focus should be on reporting suspicious activities, rather than on determining whether the transactions are in fact linked to money laundering, terrorist financing, or a particular crime.

The following examples are red flags that, when encountered, may warrant additional scrutiny. The mere presence of a red flag is not by itself evidence of criminal activity. Closer scrutiny should help to determine whether the activity is suspicious or one for which there does not appear to be a reasonable business or legal purpose."

+ A person customarily uses the automated teller machine to make several bank deposits below a specified threshold.

+ A customer deposits funds into several accounts, usually in amounts of less than $3,000, which are subsequently consolidated into a master account and transferred outside of the country, particularly to or through a location of specific concern (e.g., countries designated by national authorities and Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) as noncooperative countries and territories).

The rest of the information can be found here: http://www.ffiec.gov/bsa_aml_inf....

Just a wild guess on my part but I'm thinking . . . possibly . . . the family deposit/withdrawal/funds transfers might have been inconsistent with other similar types of restaurants doing business with the same financial institutions. Or I could be completely and utterly clueless. :-)

Krissy3

It's probably just because there are 5 different people involved all of whom probably have separate accounts making separate deposits. Say Andy ran the depot, kouly ran Diana's on 250, and bobby ran Diana's in PC. At the end of the night they all made their deposits into the bank. That would be 3 deposits in one night under 10k, maybe to different accounts. Not necessarily criminal, but would possibly raise a red flag.

DGMutley

The 8300 form isn't applicable to the restaurant business because the customer sales for food (transactions) are not related to each other. The same would be true for any retail business. Total sales for the day don't count unless they are related transactions.*

*Related transactions:
Transactions between a buyer and a seller that occur within a
24-hour period are related transactions.

Transactions more than 24 hours apart are related if the
recipient of the cash knows, or has reason to know, that each
transaction is one of a series of connected transactions

FlyBoy86

So they can't sell used equipment or cater a party which would exceed $10,000?

Krissy3

A party exceeding 10k would be rare. Maybe a wedding, but I'm not sure they would be my pick for wedding food. A lot of places don't even allow outside catering. Short answer is yes they could, but not likely.

Krissy3

And it would have to be 10k in cash...

25yr.resident

There's more to this than just tax evasion. SWAT? Are you kidding? Border Patrol? Tax evasion. Uh huh, and I voted republican the last 37 years....NOT! Look for a Lifetime movie about this soon.

Krissy3

They weren't even charged with tax evasion. They are charged with not filing a form!

MBR

That is what is so confusing. From what I have read, none of the individuals deposited more than 10 grand (which would need the form). Are their accounts considered to be “one entity” b/c they all work for/own the company?

The same with the airport situation in Jan. If each person was carrying $7,500, that is not an outrageous amount for travel and does not require documentation. So technically, they did not break the law. Although I do recall reading in another thread that if both of their names were under the same flight reservation, then that counts as being “one entity”.

OSUBuckeye59

@MBR, when family members travel together, only 1 declaration form is used for the entire family, and that's why the collective cash amount of greater than $10,000.00 was the issue.

2cents

Well 25, maybe you voted for a first term Chicago Democrat, you know the guy that is our current president, never worked a real job in his life, loves golf and spends the money of the non 47% that do pay taxes just for fun! Life is great when you can do nothing and play all day.

Roger15

When are we going to see (The Honorable) Jon Corzine brought up on charges for the 1.5 billion FRNs he stole from customers at MF Global?? Oh, wait he's a big Obama donor. Well, maybe Eric Holder the Attorney General found in contempt of Congress for not answering Congressional subpoena? And so on and on and on.....God help our once great nation!

Roger15

Forgot to mention Larry Summers, Rubin, Greenspan, Geithner, Hank Paulson as well.

OSUBuckeye59

Why is it that every discussion at some point ends up with one or more Commenters going off-topic to rail about either Obama/Democrats/Liberals/Left-wing nut jobs or the GOP/Conservatives/Right-wing nut jobs? Is it really that difficult to stay on-subject?

eriemom

Thank you writing exactly what I was thinking OSU.

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