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

mikel

Nobody said that anyone had a $10,000 bill

Krissy3

Then they wouldn't be required to file the form they have been indicted for not filing...

DGMutley

It's interesting that we have this high profile case 1 week before taxes are due?

doc5798a

Remember when they did the same thing to Romney because of his off shore accounts. I don't either.

thinktwice

If you can afford all of that, you can afford to pay your share and follow up with the appropriate paperwork. I pay my fair share and would be pressed to find a million bucks of income over 10 years alone a million or so to skim. They made the big money and they are only required to file on a portion of it. It doesn't appear that it was a matter of being able to pay their share it was they were trying to take more than their fair share. If all of the drug allegations are true, then well they all got what they deserved. AND it's a shame I loved their food. I always tipped fairly, guess that wasn't enough for them though.

pptrsha

tips go to servers not owners :)

Krissy3

The drug allegations are not true, at least for 2 of them. I don't know the others well and can't speak on what they do, but I know for a fact 2 of them do not sell drugs, can't stand junkies, and are constantly preaching about drug testing those who get welfare, how bad pills are, etc. Again, they have not been charged with tax evasion, only not filing these forms...

littlemary69

I looked up this paper they were to have filed. It has to do with the purchase of a car. If you pay cash for a car, you have to file this 8300 form with your taxes to the IRS that year and either the dealer didn't file it or they didn't. That is what got them in trouble and started this mess. Then because between two of them they had fourteen grand on them in cash when going to Greece, it sent off red flags because of the car purchases. I guess being rich is a crime these days, especially when you are young and Daddy is rich. Too bad for them. Now they have to go to trial and explain this in court. Given the last few cases the IRS and the Feds have had in courts lately, they sure haven't done to well. They have lost every one of them. So I wouldn't be too surprised if they lose this one too. Out in my neck of the woods in California, they lost their last three. Too bad. The Feds are just plain lost out there.

Krissy3

The individual selling the car would have been required to file the form since he or she was the one getting to 10k but the buyers info would have been listed on it.

pptrsha

I have worked at dianas and the depot when total sales for the day equal under 400.00 how long would it take to earn 10,000.?? drive by port Clinton and look at their empty parking lot and figure up sales of 10,000.
this is how we got paid at dianas and depot, at the end of the week you wrote on a piece of paper how many hours you worked with your name on it and they would keep 15.00 and give you the rest in cash... and at the end of the year you tell them what you want to pay taxes on....

Julie R.

The Erie County commissioner Bill Monaghan lives in this Sandusky gated community known for its multi-million-dollar homes? Wow, there must be good money in being a county commissioner! Of course, isn't he the brother-in-law of Kevin Baxter? If so, didn't they come into a lot of money when Dr. Baxter and his wife died? Must have been a lot considering how the probate court sealed the records in their probate estates.

8ballinthesidepocket

More of your mindless, pointless, spitefull, idiotic psychobabble! Go grind your axe about the Baxters somewhere else!

Julie R.

I have no ax to grind about the Baxters. I don't even know them. I don't know your Erie County prosecutor, either, other than the fact that he sure doesn't like to return phone calls when his attorney buds are involved in crimes against the elderly.

pptrsha

bill m's wife was the principal of Osborne school when my kids went there she has a phd in education all of baxters kids are educated and earned their own money aside from any inheritance I am not a fan of the baxters but they are all hard workers

Julie R.

pptrsha: You obviously missed my point.

Julie R.

I have some records the FEDS can look at. They show how crooks from an insurance company made half a dozen fraudulent transfers of money out of two IRA's (annuities) that had been given away as a gift years and years prior over to another IRA (annuity) that they changed the ownership on. When they had the two annuities down to less than $10,000.00 each they then cash surrendered them in on a forged power of attorney with bogus Erie County Recorder numbers faxed down the side of it.

Ned Mandingo

I find it very troubling that these jack boot thugs did a military style assault on their house. Bobby and his family are some great people, the thieves that sent their goons to his house are the criminals. Good luck in your battle against these socialist leaches.

jason2121

The charges were essentially conspiracy to avoid banking regulations. Conspiracy tends to be difficult to prove in a court of law, especially in a case like this where the claims of the feds are sketchy.

Sounds like the feds perceived that their authority was being usurped and were annoyed by it. Or they have a hunch that something criminal might have been occurring and used this raid as a front to investigate them further, hoping that something else shows up later in the search that is actually evidence of criminal activity.

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