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El Rodeo Owners Cop To Massively Under-reporting Sales Taxes

Paresh Gajria

3:30 p.m. Update:

Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington tells Network Indiana the investigation included a personal experience from a law enforcement officer who ate at one of the El Rodeo locations in Greater Lafayette.

"A detective from the West Lafayette Police Department at our local El Rodeo and he noticed that as he paid for his lunch, the cash drawer was never opened, no one rang up his sale and he was returned his cash back out of another drawer," Harrington says.


The heat surrounding Lafayette's El Rodeo restaurant chain no longer comes just from the salsa.

Three of the chain's principal owners, Francisco Salgado, Jose Melendez and Abel Bustos, have agreed to plead guilty to a combined 12 counts of theft for failing to report more than $4.5 million in state sales taxes.

A joint investigation begun in May of 2013 between five law enforcement agencies -- the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Tippecanoe County Prosecutor’s Office, West Lafayette Police, and Lafayette Police -- targeted El Rodeo and El Jaripeo restaurants in ten counties: Boone, Clinton, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion, Morgan, Tippecanoe and Wayne.

The $4.53 million will be paid back to Marion and Tippecanoe Counties, as well as the Indiana Department of Revenue, and will come from money the state has already seized during the course of the investigation.

WBAA has placed a call to Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington seeking comment.

This story will be updated.