Thursday, July 20, 2006

Guess I won't be eating at La Shish anytime soon.

Found this today:


U.S. Department of JusticeStephen J. MurphyUnited States Attorney
Eastern District of MichiganSuite 2001 211 West Fort Street Detroit, Michigan
48226-3277Fax: (313) 226-3561

Federal charges were unsealed today in Detroit against Talal Khalil Chahine, 51, of Dearborn Heights, Michigan and the owner of the “La Shish” restaurant chain, and Elfat El Aouar, 39 of Plymouth, a “La Shish” financial manager and Chahine’s wife. Chahine and El Aouar are charged by the federal grand jury Indictment with four Counts each of Income Tax Evasion, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201. Each Count carries a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Elfat El Aouar was arrested earlier today from her home in Plymouth. A bail hearing and arraignment is scheduled to occur at 1:00 p.m. in federal court. Talal Chahine is presently outside the United States and is believed to be in Lebanon. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In announcing the Indictment, United States Attorney Stephen J. Murphy commended the work of the Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Kenneth R. Chadwell and Julie A. Beck.

As set forth in the Indictment, Talal Khalil Chahine is the sole owner of La Shish, Inc., a Middle Eastern restaurant chain located in the Detroit, Michigan metropolitan area. Elfat El Aouar, who is married to Talal Chahine, has an M.B.A. and has worked at La Shish, Inc. in various capacities including as the company’s Vice President of Finance. The Indictment alleges that Talal Chahine and Elfat El Aouar collaborated in a scheme to skim cash proceeds from the restaurants for the tax years 2000 through 2003. During those tax years, it is alleged, La Shish, Inc. maintained a double set of computerized books, records and balance reports, one actual and one altered. The altered records artificially reduced the amount of cash that was actually received by the restaurants. Talal Chahine and Elfat El Aouar oversaw the maintenance of the double set of books, as well as the skimming and concealment of more than $16,000,000 in cash received by the restaurants. To evade government scrutiny, the skimmed cash was not deposited into U.S. bank accounts, but instead, at the direction of Chahine and El Aouar, converted into cashier’s checks and reduced in physical size by changing small denominations into larger ones. These conversions were made for the purpose of transporting the cash outside the United States to Lebanon, away from U.S. government reach and detection. Cash was also skimmed by paying La Shish, Inc. employees all or partly in cash.

United States Attorney Stephen J. Murphy said, “The charges today highlight the importance of enforcing our tax laws fairly and diligently. The transferring of millions of dollars in cash from the United States to the Middle East in the attempt to evade taxes will not be tolerated. I commend the hard work of the IRS Criminal Division and the FBI that lead to these charges being unsealed today.” Special Agent Aouate said, “The Internal Revenue Service spends a great deal of its resources in identifying individuals who earn their income legitimately yet willfully fail to report and pay their fair share in taxes. We will continue to work with the United States Attorney to make sure that there are consequences to one's willful actions.”

An Indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

An there is more to the story:

The U.S. government, in a written proffer of evidence (in U.S.A. v. Elfat El Aouar, Cr. No. 06-20248, EDMI, 5/22/2006), states that Chahine and his wife attended a fundraising event in Lebanon in August 2002 with Hizballah Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Specially Designated Terrorist (see page 8), where the two men were the keynote speakers. The proffer also claims that a search of El Aouar’s residence turned up a “thank you letter” for sponsoring 40 “orphans,” as well as images of Chahine and his family in front of a Hizballah outpost. According to the proffer, “[t]he government is aware that the sponsorship of orphans is a euphemism used by Hizballah to refer to the orphans of martyrs. This is a common public relations and recruitment tool used by Hizballah. Hizballah gains favor with the public in Lebanon by supporting ‘orphans,’ while at the same time recruiting others into the terrorist organization willing to sacrifice their lives in terrorist operations based in part on the promise that Hizballah will take care of their families.” The government has yet to charge Chahine or his wife with any terrorism-related offense.

Interesting. H/T Counterterorism Blog


At 11:11 AM, Blogger The Salmon of Knowledge said...

I saw this tax evasion news a little while ago, and have been counting the days until the "Waiter, there's a terrorist in my soup" crowd would find a some supposed like to Hezbollah. The evidence on this one is about equivalent to saying that everyone who attends GOP fundraisers is a racist, as I'm pretty sure if you combed the guest book on some GOP fundraiser, some place, somewhere, an active racist would appear.

Its a sad example of trying to assign guilt by remote association.

As for the orphanage donations... this is even more laughable. Im sure there probably are more than a few orphaned children of jihadi's, but are they to pay for the sins of their fathers?? Again a weak example of guilty by remote association.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger The Salmon of Knowledge said...

I wonder if the "Counter Terrorism Blog" will write me up next... I think I dropped a quarter in the alms for the poor jar at a local Shawarma joint last week.....

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Taxbeaner said...

Since, by participating in this blog, I am aware of the charges against the La Shish principals, can I be charged with terrorism by eating at one of their restaurants? This would not have entered my mind in an earlier era but Bush-Gonzalez logic would seem to dictate caution. If one knowingly contributes to the profit of a terrorist supporter (there is a presumption of guilt in cases like this according to this administration) then that is sufficient to link the restaurant patron to the terrorist organization. In all likelihood, the restaurants are under surveillance and all patrons are being added to a list to be scanned for knowledge of the charges. The mere posting of this comment seals my fate because now I am not only aware of the charges but I have considered my own culpibilty beforehand. This would seem to point toward first degree terrorism. Am I right?

At 6:24 AM, Blogger The Salmon of Knowledge said...

Just make sure you order the cheeseburger plate with "freedom fries". That'll show 'em


Post a Comment

<< Home