Charges: 7 Teppanyaki restaurant owners failed to report sales tax

Seven Asian restaurants around Indiana did not report sales of more than $8 million, and their owners have been criminally charged with failing to remit nearly $675,000 in sales and food and beverage taxes to the state, authorities said Thursday.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced felony charges against owners of the eateries — two in Indianapolis along with locations in Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Marion, Plainfield and Terre Haute. The owners were charged with evading sales and food and beverage taxes from 2014 to 2016. Each is  charged with racketeering — Level 5 felony corrupt business influence — and multiple counts each of felony theft and felony failure to remit taxes held in trust. Those charged are:

• Shuai Li, co-owner of Teppanyaki Grill Supreme Buffet, 9701 E. Washington St. Indianapolis.

• Chunhua Wang, owner of Teppanyaki Grill Super Buffet, Inc., 2641 Maple Point Drive, Lafayette.

• Guo Wu Wu, owner of Teppanyaki Supreme Buffet 285, Inc., 285 E. Colliseum Boulevard in Fort Wayne.

• Jin Qui Zhao, owner of Teppanyaki Buffet, Inc., 1310 W. 38th St., Marion.

• Ji Rong Lin, owner of Hokkaido Japanese Buffet, Inc., 380 S. Highway 41, Terre Haute.

• Guang Feng Li, owner of China King Feng, LLC., located at 2535 E. Main St., Suite 108, Plainfield;  and co-owner of Teppanyaki Grill Supreme Buffet, 9701 E. Washington St., Indianapolis.

• Sheng Yi Li, owner of Teppanyaki West, Inc., located at 5390 W. 38th St., Indianapolis.

“The filing of these charges is yet another example of our work to hold accountable those who we believe are playing by their own rules, often to the disadvantage of other businesses in our community,” Curry said in a statement. “We committed to re-establishing the ability of our office to investigate and prosecute complex white-collar crime. We have also built successful partnerships with agencies such the Indiana Department of Revenue, and together we will continue to expand this work on behalf of taxpayers.”

Department of Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp hailed the cooperation of Curry’s office, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police and DOR’s own forensic auditors.

“Today’s charges are a reminder that compliance with the tax laws of Indiana is a primary focus at all levels of government,” Krupp said.

Authorities began investigating the business practices of the restaurants in October 2014 and allege that each used nearly identical business practices, with owners “cash skimming” to conceal and underreport cash sales. The restaurants are believed to have underreported the percentage of cash sales, which allegedly constituted 46 percent of sales. However, the restaurants typically reported to the Indiana Department of Revenue that cash sales were less than five percent of their sales.

Through a separate civil forfeiture action, $40,185.68 in previously seized assets has been collected for forfeiture to local law enforcement agencies. The criminal cases have been assigned to Marion Superior Criminal Division 2. Initial hearing dates have not yet been scheduled.

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