Originally created 12/21/06

Police charge Veracruz owner



A Martinez restaurant owner who allegedly had about $1 million in cash stashed at his home and business has been accused of federal tax fraud.

Emilo Sanchez was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court with three counts of filing false income tax returns. In a civil action filed the same day, Mr. Sanchez also consented to the forfeiture of $664,971 to the federal government.

Mr. Sanchez and his wife caught the attention of law enforcement after they reported a Dec. 26, 2004, burglary of their Veracruz Mexican Restaurant on Stevens Creek Road. They told officers that thieves took a 600-pound safe that contained about $80,000.

When Richmond County sheriff's officers apprehended two prime suspects - Henry Lee Brown and Shayla C. Reid - they found $372,877 in cash in their car. Following other suspects, Prince and Dana Dupart, led to the recovery of $28,928 in cash. Officers even found more than $7,000 in cash that Ms. Reid allegedly tried to hide in a bathroom at the sheriff's office after her arrest.

Suspicious of so much cash, federal agents joined the sheriff's office investigators. Narcotics dogs also allegedly gave the signal that the cash was contaminated with cocaine.

An initial search of the Sanchez home came up empty, according to reports in The Augusta Chronicle. Officers, however, eventually found a secret compartment containing $594,900 in cash.

The charges filed against Mr. Sanchez this week allege he underreported his income by more than $400,000 for the 2001, 2002 and 2003 tax years.

Mr. Sanchez remains free pending possible indictment and trial.

Several people were prosecuted for the restaurant burglary.

In Richmond County Superior Court last winter, Mr. Brown was sentenced to four years in prison followed by six years on probation; Ms. Reid was sentenced to seven years on probation; Prince and Dana Dupart were each sentenced to three years in prison followed by seven years on probation; and Donna Barnhart-Onate was sentenced to one year in the county jail followed by seven years' probation.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.