California Restaurant Owner Hit With Superseding Indictment For $2.4 Million COVID Relief Fraud Scheme

Emma Grant

A prominent San Diego restaurant owner is facing serious charges after being indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly orchestrating an extensive COVID relief fraud scheme exceeding $2 million.

Leronce Suel, majority owner of local eateries Rockstar Dough LLC and Chicken Feed LLC, was handed down a superseding indictment on February 2nd containing charges of wire fraud, tax evasion, money laundering conspiracy, and falsifying tax returns.

Prosecutors allege that Suel conspired with his business partner to grossly underreport over $1.7 million in earnings on Rockstar Dough’s 2020 tax returns. The pair then deceivingly used the false filings to qualify the restaurants for hefty Paycheck Protection Program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund loans meant to aid businesses during the pandemic.

Suel also allegedly falsely certified on loan forgiveness forms that the $2 million received was used strictly for payroll, when in reality large cash withdrawals were taken from corporate accounts to funnel the illegitimate funds.

As part of the conspiracy, Suel and his co-conspirator concealed the staggering sum of $2.4 million in embezzled cash within their shared residence.

Authorities further accuse Suel of failing to report substantial personal income over multiple years, including millions in unreported cash earnings and company-paid expenses like his home rental fees.

Recently in 2023, he brazenly filed blatantly fraudulent original and amended tax returns for prior years containing bogus business losses and assets.

For each count of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud of which he is convicted, Suel faces a steep maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment.

He could also serve up to 10 years for each money laundering conspiracy charge, 5 for tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, 3 for each false tax return filed, and 1 year per failure to file.

Formal sentencing will be determined by a federal judge using Federal Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Leading the announcement of the superseding indictment were Stuart M. Goldberg, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and U.S. Attorney Tara K. McGrath of the Southern District of California. IRS Criminal Investigation agents are actively investigating the expansive allegations.

With his prominent restaurants and ties to the local community, Leronce Suel’s shocking indictment has left San Diego residents stunned.

The brazen multi-million dollar fraud scheme to unlawfully tap COVID relief programs, if proven true in court, represents an appalling lapse of business ethics and betrayal of public trust during a time of immense hardship.

Suel is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But if convicted on all charges, he could potentially face decades behind bars plus massive fines and restitution for his role in defrauding taxpayers and pandemic relief efforts out of over $2 million.

The outcome of this landmark San Diego fraud case will be closely monitored as yet another reminder to apply relief funds legally and ethically.

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Emma Grant is a highly regarded legal news expert with a deep understanding of constitutional law and its implications in contemporary society. With her extensive background in legal journalism and analysis, Emma Grant has established herself as a trusted authority on the intersection of law, policy, and society.