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NP eatery among defendants in lawsuit

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NEW PALESTINE — A Mexican restaurant raided last November is one of dozens named as defendants in a civil forfeiture lawsuit filed in Tippecanoe County.

El Jaripeo, which opened in New Palestine in early 2013, was one of many restaurants throughout the state that were targeted in the raids. Police confiscated more than $3.4 million during the operation statewide, and the lawsuit, filed by the Tippecanoe County prosecutor’s office, seeks to keep the cash.

The lawsuit accuses the restaurants’ owners and other parties in the businesses of obtaining the money illegally.

Paperwork filed in Tippecanoe County lists a seizure of $337.05 from the raid at El Jaripeo at 38 W. Main St. in New Palestine  and named Antonio Salgado Pastrana as a defendant.     

While the suspects in the statewide raids on Nov. 18 have not been charged with crimes and the cases are still under investigation, the suit claims the defendants should forfeit the money.

A reporter from the Daily Reporter visited El Jaripeo at lunchtime Wednesday afternoon.

 “It’s business as usual,” said manager Jose Roes.

Roes said he could not comment on the lawsuit and referred the reporter to a corporate official, who did not return calls seeking comment.

A civil forfeiture case is different than a criminal forfeiture, which happens after a defendant is convicted of a crime, a story Wednesday in the Lafayette Journal & Courier pointed out.

In order to win a civil forfeiture case, the prosecutor must prove through a preponderance of the evidence that gains were illegally attained, Attorney General Greg Zoeller told the Journal & Courier.

The lawsuit names at least 25 restaurants and several individuals. It accuses them of operating criminal enterprises and engaging in money laundering to conceal the proceeds of criminal activity.

 The lawsuit also accuses the restaurants of theft, alleging that the businesses failed to report the correct amount of money they owed the state in taxes.

A similar filing also was made in Marion County. Officials from the Marion County prosecutor’s office did not return calls.

The Tippecanoe County lawsuit is asking the court to require the defendants to divest themselves of any interests in the restaurants and deliver the funds of divestment to the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit also asks that the owners be prevented from reorganizing their businesses and asks the court to revoke any professional licenses the defendants might have from the state.

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