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Area restaurant owner pleads guilty to tax evasion and employing illegal aliens

STAFF REPORTS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Sergio Ramses Mucino, 44, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. to tax evasion and conspiracy to unlawfully employ more than ten aliens during any 12-month period. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiGiacomo, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant owned and operated multiple restaurants in the Western New York area, including: Don Tequila, located at 73 Allen Street, Buffalo; El Agave located at 3870 Union Road, Cheektowaga, NY; Agave, located at 765 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo; and La Divina, located at 2896 Delaware Avenue, Kenmore, NY.
For the tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, Mucino owed substantial federal income tax as a result of income generated at the his restaurants through his employment of illegal aliens. However, the defendant concealed cash payments, failed to collect payroll taxes, paid employees with cash, and placed assets in the names of others, to evade payment of income taxes totaling $1,006,161.
Between March of 2014 and October 16, 2016, Mucino, along with co-defendants Jose Sanchez-Ocampo and Marguin Sanchez, conspired to hire at least 10 illegal aliens to work in the defendant’s restaurants. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Mucino provided money to Sanchez to purchase homes where the alien employees would live, including 149 North End in Kenmore, and 4024 Union Road in Cheektowaga. The defendant also paid rent for nine apartments where the alien employees lived. The two houses and nine apartments were within close proximity to the defendant’s restaurants.
Today’s plea also requires Mucino to forfeit nearly $40,000 in cash that was seized from his restaurants, a 2009 Porsche Boxster that the defendant purchased with his illegal profits, and another $1,000,000 representing additional profits made from operating the restaurants against the laws of the United States. Previously, another $35,000 in cash was forfeited by managers of Mucino’s restaurants and the two houses, which housed some of the illegal workers.
“As with the Internal Revenue Code, compliance with the immigration law is not an optional endeavor,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “My Office will continue vigorously to enforce the law where, as here, individuals seek to evade their legal obligations in order to elevate their financial aspirations.”
“Criminal charges and fines are among the useful tools to ensure employers maintain a legal workforce,” said Kevin Kelly, Special Agent-in-Charge of HSI Buffalo. “This guilty plea represents HSI's firm commitment to holding employers accountable, and the serious consequences that await those who ignore the law.”
Jose Sanchez-Ocampo and Marguin Sanchez were previously convicted.
Today’s plea is the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in- Charge Kevin Kelly, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office, and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.