by Kyle Swenson
According to federal authorities, a Northwest Ohio IHOP kingpin was reportedly trying to scam both the government and the pancake giant out of money thanks to an operation jerry-rigged with illegal immigrants.
The first sign Tarek Elkafrawi, who holds the paper on six IHOPs in Ohio and another one over the border in Indiana, was wiggling in the crosshairs of authorities came in September, when the feds raided his restaurants, walking out with boxes of documents. At the time the authorities would not reveal the purpose of the investigation, but according to the Sandusky Register, the owner and 18 others were arrested this week on charges of mail fraud, money laundering and identity theft.
The alleged scam is some pretty low-level skullduggery. Elkafrawi and his managers hired known-illegal immigrants, then withheld overtime. The set-up allowed the managers to underreport income, meaning the restaurants could pay lower workers compensation payments. Very crafty. In total, the scam let Elkafrawi pocket about $3 million that should have gone elsewhere.
Adding further color to the portrait of Elkafrawi alleged bad acts, the feds say he and another man also burned down an IHOP in Findlay back in '08, then collected $1.3 million on the claim.