El Fuego owners indicted on tax fraud

A federal grand jury in Milwaukee has returned a 33-count indictment of the family that owns area restaurants El Fuego, El Beso and Omega Burger.

Paul Bouraxis, 65, his wife Freida Bouraxis, 60, their son, Andreas Bouraxis, 38, and their son-in-law, Reiad “Ray” Awadallah, 44, all of Franklin, have all been charged with conspiring to impede the Internal Revenue Service by dipping into the tills of their restaurants.

They allegedly skimmed cash from the businesses and hid it by never depositing the funds, building up a stash of more than $1.7 million in cash. In addition, the family bought jewelry and precious metals including silver bars with the cash.

Omega Burger is located at 7041 S. 27th St. in Franklin; El Fuego is located at 909 W. Layton Ave. in Milwaukee; and El Beso is located at 5030 S. 74th St. in Greenfield.

According to the indictment, the defendants also allegedly paid employees of the restaurants in cash and did not withhold or pay taxes on those wages.

Paul, Andreas and Awadallah are charged with tax evasion stemming from tax returns and payroll tax returns from 2009 to 2011.

Paul Bouraxis is also charged with bank fraud related to loans from Associated Bank. According to the indictment, he defaulted on the loans and renegotiated their terms based on false information about his financial situation. He did not reveal the cash hoard or more than $2 million in Greek bank accounts. Associated Bank lost more than $4 million through the fraud.

Paul could get 85 years of prison time and could be fined up to $3.75 million. Freida faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Andreas could got to prison for up to 19 years and be fined up to $4.75 million. Awadallah faces up to 14 years behind bars and up to  $1 million in fines. The family’s $1.7 million in cash and precious metals have been seized by federal agents and could be forfeited.

In connection with the indictment, Sheboygan accountant Scott Sherman reached a plea agreement with the government. Sherman, who did the accounting and bookkeeping for Bouraxis and his businesses, will plead guilty to one count of filing a false federal income tax return. He failed to report all the income earned from his accounting practice from 2007 to 2011, and faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

“This indictment should serve as a warning to those who choose to actively engage in illegal schemes to evade their income and payroll tax obligations,“ said Shea Jones, special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s St. Paul field office. “Using cash in an attempt to conceal illegal activity will not deter IRS Criminal Investigation’s special agents from vigorously pursuing those who threaten the integrity of our nation’s tax system.”

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