Originally created 02/03/05

Police find money in restaurant owner's home



Authorities discovered a large amount of cash during a January search of a home belonging to a restaurant owner whose office safe containing more than $400,000 was stolen Dec. 26, according to a Richmond County Sheriff's Office search warrant returned Wednesday.

The warrant also revealed that authorities had spoken with an informant who said he knew a "mule" who delivered drugs from Miami to Emilio Sanchez, the owner of Veracruz Mexican Restaurant on Stevens Creek Road.

Mr. Sanchez reported the Dec. 26 theft to police and said the stolen safe contained $80,000, credit cards and a diamond ring.

Authorities suspected there was more to the burglary when they recovered about $400,000 in cash - five times the amount Mr. Sanchez initially reported - from five suspects charged with the crime.

Mr. Sanchez and his wife, Lisa Sanchez, who are separated, have not been charged with any wrongdoing, authorities said.

According to the search warrant, authorities found $372,877 stuffed in a shoe box in a car belonging to Henry Lee Brown, a 30-year-old Augusta resident charged with a second count of burglary. He is suspected of breaking into the same restaurant in 2003.

According to the warrant, investigators searched Mr. Sanchez's home in the 3500 block of Evans to Locks Road on Dec. 30.

During that search, police seized only personal papers and a computer and several more records from a second home in the 2300 block of Pine Ridge Drive in Appling.

The search warrants also revealed how the suspects might have spent some of the cash. Mr. Brown bought a new car; Donna D. Barnhart-Onate gave $10,000 to a cousin; and someone paid a sixth person more than $3,000 to dispose of the safe.

After a drug dog detected narcotics on the recovered stolen cash and an acquaintance of Mr. Sanchez alerted authorities to a hidden safe in his Martinez home, authorities returned for a second search, the warrant said.

Authorities recovered more than half of the $1 million in recovered cash - $594,000 - in Mr. Sanchez's home Jan. 3, the search warrant said.

Authorities noted that Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez filed a 2004 income of $106,000, although the house he lives in is valued at $550,000 and is lavishly furnished, according to the search warrant.

Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or kate.lewis@augustachronicle.com.

Related links:

Details come out in Veracruz burglary
Stolen safe held $1 million
Restaurant theft leads to new investigation
Man is linked to earlier theft
5 arrested in theft from Mexican restaurant