Former El Agave owner admits to tax evasion, employing aliens

CHEEKTOWAGA – The former owner of El Agave on Union Road pleaded guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to employ more than ten aliens unlawfully the US Attorney announced Friday.

Sergio Ramses Mucino, 44, of Buffalo, owed substantial federal income tax as a result of income generated at his restaurants through his employment of illegal aliens during the tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015 the US Attorney says.  He 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.

Mr. Mucino 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; Agave, located at 765 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo; and La Divina, located at 2896 Delaware Avenue, Kenmore.

Between March of 2014 and October 16, 2016, Mr. Mucino, along with co-defendants Jose Sanchez-Ocampo and Marguin Sanchez, conspired to hire at least 10 illegal aliens to work in the restaurants.

The US Attorney’s Office also says Mr. Mucino provided money to Mr. Sanchez to purchase homes where the alien employees would live, including 149 North End in Kenmore, and 4024 Union Road in Cheektowaga. He also paid rent for nine apartments where the alien employees lived. The two houses and nine apartments were within proximity to the defendant’s restaurants.

The plea agreement requires Mr. 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 illegally.  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,” said US Attorney James 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.”

The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Jose Sanchez-Ocampo and Marguin Sanchez were previously convicted.

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