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.


The Don

I wonder when the younger ones drug charges are coming!!?


Federal income tax cheating is running over $300 BILLION per year. That's almost 1/3 of the deficit. It added THREE TRILLION DOLLARS to the deficit in the first decade of the 21st century.

So who would defend tax cheaters? Other cheaters?

DEEPsix's picture

Agents also were down at the marina... checking several boats... we were there at 0600 when 5 cars shot in.... The drug charges will come down the line soon.....

Think Deeper

Good to hear. Don't think Chris can buy his way out of this one.


Chris is only one of five!


This whole thing is wrong. The law that was made to deter drug smugglers and money launderers being used against these people. The tax laws that are designed to take as much money as possible from people. The assault rifles and raiding a business owner's home. If one can't move their own money around as they see fit, I see something very wrong with the system. These people are not criminals. Obviously, there are way more serious crimes for the FBI and Border Control to contend with. Sort of makes me glad I'm poor.


I don't have a problem with taking cash to relatives. The issue is hiding money so you don't have to pay taxes on it. Just because you are wealthy enough to deal in huge amounts of cash does not give you the right to hide it so you can avoid the taxes that we all pay. I'll bet they drive those cars on roads our taxes paid for and pay to maintain. I bet they expect the fire department to come to fires and the police department to come if they are robbed. And they expect street lights on the streets where their businesses are! Everyone has to pay taxes to finance a civil society.


sorry i have to disagree....i like many others are done paying taxes to this government. So do you mind paying for drone stikes all over the world, killing thousands of civilian men, women and children? So you enjoy paying for illegal wars that have destroyed countries and civilian homes and have murdered millions? Do you enjoy your hard earned money going to the "to big to fail" banking cartels just so they can fail again? So you enjoy paying for a $500,000.00 one nite stay for mr Joe Biden in London a few weeks ago? The US infrastructure is pre 1960's and so is our poverty level....so you keep on paying those taxes boys and girls and watch this corrupt government keep on growin...me, i prefer to keep my hard earned money till washington/ohio gets their crap togther and start using YOUR tax money for the priorities that are more important than war and bailing out the rich. Cops and Fire, stay home...i got a "dog" and a hose!


like, like, like, like etc etc...........

Think Deeper

^If you don't pay taxes then get the eff out of our country.

The Big Dog's back

Agree 100% Adios teabaggers.

Now The Rest of...

mut they sound like typical democrappers, high rent neighborhood democrapper county commissioner as a neighbor....


guess it just doesn't sink in to your thick skull that our tax money funds CRIME! Do you have any idea that The IRS is a private, debt collection agency for the private banking system known as the Federal Reserve Bank....PRIVATE!!...THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN AUDITED, NOT EVEN BY OUR CONGRESS! i will never pay money to a government/private banking cartel that murders, steals, lies, and cheats the people of this great county every minute of every day and is never held accountable for its crimes against humanity....we spend more money on bombs and warplanes killing millions worldwide with senseless wars... then we tax business to death to where they leave and take all our good jobs to China and elsewhere......and before you reply with ignorance, do us all a favor and do an honest study of the federal reserve and its origins!! you do know how to use google right? just for you i will give you a great link to get you started on the path to the truth....we are all being lied to!

Here it is in a nutshell. The IRS is a private, debt collection agency for the private banking system known as the Federal Reserve Bank. The IRS is not a government agency. I repeat, the IRS is not a government agency. Never has been, never will be.

The IRS is formerly the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) situated in and with authority only in the Philippine Islands (Trust Fund # 61), and moved into Puerto Rico (Trust Fund # 62). In the 1950’s, with the stroke of the pen, the BIR was transformed into the current notorious IRS and brought onto the 50 united States. This was done without any Congressional authority whatsoever. There is no Congressional authority for the IRS to exist and operate in the 50 states recorded anywhere in any law-books. Again, keep in mind, that the IRS is the “Private, debt collection agency for the private banking system known as the Federal Reserve Banks”.



They weren't charged with income tax evasion.


Exactly! Everyone keeps saying they were hiding money so they didn't have to pay taxes, but yet there is no charges of tax evasion... Only conspiring to do this or that. Did anyone ever bother to think the deposits were what they brought in sales each day? I know at our store, we usually deposit the money from cash and checks each night after the store closes. Occasionally we will wait for the next day, but rarely. We hardly ever have over 10k in cash sales a day. Our credit card deposits are deposited automatically. We also have more than one bank account. We have a personal account, a business account (for only one business), and another account that we generally use to save money for taxes. Our business does way more credit card sales than cash, and credit card sales are reported directly to the IRS. Plenty of people buy things with cash, especially if you are buying a car or boat from a private seller. Also, the two going to Greece didnt have 10k on each of them, there was over 10k between them, so if I were to go on vacation out of the country with my boyfriend or mother I would have to ask her how much money they were each taking so that we didnt exceed 10k?


You're right. These deposits must be sales. On this 8300 form that they are talking about, you certainly don't have to provide an 8300 form every time your sales accumulate to 10,000 do you? The form requires customer participation.


No, you have to file if you get 10k in a single CASH transaction or in their case 10k from cash sales in a day. Like I said we have a retail business where we sell TVs, laptops, and other things that are far more expensive than their meals and we certainly don't bring in 10k a day in cash sales. We have never had to file form 8300...We probably deposit around 4k-6k daily from our cash and check sales. I'm not sure where this indictment is coming from if they are not charging them with tax evasion...


amen and the thing that bothers me , is that they say they were scemming money from there bissiness , how can that be a crime , Its theirs , they earned it . The goverment iis now saying that we can do what we want with our money ? They need to read whats on the money . In God We Trust and legal tender for public and
private use .


unassumer are you really that naive that you don't see what they had been doing, it is called TAX EVASION, THEFT, CHEATING, I have gone into both sandusky locations in the past and have always been asked to pay cash, that threw up a red flag for me and haven't been back there for years.


I have been in both places and have always, every single time used a credit card.


So have I...I've never been asked to pay in cash.


They were not indicted for tax evasion or theft. They were indicted for making multiple deposits under 10k and not filing a form...

Think Deeper

How sure are you that they are NOT drug smugglers?


It doesn't matter what the law intended, they still broke it.


How'd the agents get in Sandusky's most exclusive and only gated community? Was it an inside job??


That's not the only gated community or the most exclusive in Sandusky.


I got in there just to look around. Waited until someone opened the gate and just followed them in. Not so secure now, is it?


Oh it's coming. All good things come to an end.

looking around

Evidently many here are not familiar with the way Greek families run their businesses. This is nothing new, I've seen this in multiple states and city's. Tight knit family business where the only outsiders are cheap labor and not involved in management. They pass down knowledge of how to scam the government from due taxes and network their business in a manner that they only do business with other Greeks (probably relatives) if at all possible and with as many cash transactions as possible. If you speak and understand Greek and happen to be able to hear them talk to each other when they think you can't understand them you would get a real education on how they do business and how they feel about their help and customers. Greek business men will often form a board of sorts to interview young Greek entrepreneurs seeking backing for their own business. The Greek Orthodox church is also very involved with this process. The tentacles reach far and wide. Doubtful they will go to jail, but they will pay taxes and fines.


"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."

You use containers to ship cars and personal affects. It's much cheaper to Ocean Freight goods than to Air Freight them. It would only cost a couple grand to ship it Ocean. It would take about a month to get there, but it's cheaper than Air Freight.