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Restaurant owners face charges

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GREENFIELD — The sale of $10 worth of beer landed the owners of a Greenfield Chinese restaurant in jail Monday afternoon after an Indiana State Excise Police investigation in February.

Yee Yi Zhao, 51, and Ying Chen Zhao, 42, owners of Greenfield’s Bamboo Gardens Buffet at 2160 N. State St., were back at work for the lunchtime crowd Tuesday after they were arrested and booked into the Hancock County Jail Monday afternoon. They face a preliminary charge of maintaining a common nuisance, which is a Class D felony.

The Zhaos posted $1,000 cash bonds and were released Monday afternoon.

According to a probable cause affidavit, State Excise Police officers noticed a beverage cooler containing 12-ounce bottles of beer behind the checkout counter during an alcohol compliance check on Feb. 19.

On a Feb. 24 return visit, officers saw an advertisement in front of the cash register displaying beer prices and were told by employees the restaurant sold beer, the affidavits state.

Investigators’ review of the restaurant’s sales receipts for the week of Feb. 17 showed sales of two bottles of beer on Feb. 20 and another two-bottle sale on Feb. 21 at $2.50 each, the affidavits state.

Those sales were illegal, police said: According to state records, the establishment’s alcoholic beverage license expired in August 2012 and was considered inactive, the affidavit states.

Yee Yi Zhao was arrested at the restaurant, and his wife was arrested at home later Monday afternoon.

Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin said the felony charge of maintaining a common nuisance is a broad charge covering a variety of illegal activity.

Though the Class D felony carries a potential jail term of six months to three years and up to a $10,000 fine, Griffin said each case is examined individually; where appropriate and based on defendants’ criminal record, charges can be reduced.

“If it’s a felony charge, you’ve got to expect an arrest,” Griffin said Tuesday.

“But I think it’s important to say that these cases are resolved on an individual basis based on criminal history,” he said.

“We are constrained by the law on how to charge these cases, but we have discretion as to how we resolve them.

“No one is pretending this case is the grand scandal of Hancock County,” Griffin said. “It will be resolved appropriately.”

The Zhaos’ attorney, Ray Basile, of Shelbyville, said Tuesday that he had not yet seen the charging documents and could not comment. The Zhaos also declined comment when a reporter visited the restaurant Tuesday afternoon.

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