Feds raid Tucson restaurants

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Indictments were issued Wednesday  for Mark Evanson, 58, of Paradise Valley (left) and Christopher Evanson, 39, of Oro Valley (right).  Also arrested was the accountant for the company, Diane Strehlow, 47, of Tempe, Arizona (center). By Bryce Potter Indictments were issued Wednesday for Mark Evanson, 58, of Paradise Valley (left) and Christopher Evanson, 39, of Oro Valley (right). Also arrested was the accountant for the company, Diane Strehlow, 47, of Tempe, Arizona (center). By Bryce Potter
The Chuy's Mesquite Broiler restaurant at Speedway and Country Club in Tucson after raids by ICE and IRS agents on Wednesday. By Bob Richardson The Chuy's Mesquite Broiler restaurant at Speedway and Country Club in Tucson after raids by ICE and IRS agents on Wednesday. By Bob Richardson
Yellow crime scene tape blocks an entrance to the Chuy's Mesquite Broiler restaurant near Ina Road and I-10 in Tucson Wednesday. By Bob Richardson Yellow crime scene tape blocks an entrance to the Chuy's Mesquite Broiler restaurant near Ina Road and I-10 in Tucson Wednesday. By Bob Richardson

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Federal agents swept into restaurants in Tucson, Phoenix and various cities in California Wednesday as part of a criminal investigation into employee and tax law violations at Chuy's Mesquite Broiler restaurant chain.

Vincent Picard, a spokesperson for ICE in Phoenix, confirmed the investigation to Fox 11 News.

Picard said it centered on alleged violations of federal tax law and also employee laws.   In a midday news release, Picard says agents have arrested the father and son owners of 15 Chuy's Mesquite Broiler restaurants.  They are identified as Mark Evanson, 58, of Paradise Valley and Christopher Evanson, 39, of Oro Valley.  Also arrested was the accountant for the company, Diane Strehlow, 47, of Tempe, Arizona.

"For nearly two years, these defendants are alleged to have knowingly dodged hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes in order to maintain an illegal workforce," said U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in the news release.  "That deceitful practice, which hurts all law-abiding tax payers and employers, must stop," he said.

The indictment alleges the Evanson family hired undocumented workers to work in the kitchens of their restaurants, while legal residents were hired to work as servers or in public areas of the restaurants.  It says the illegal workers were paid cash, under the table, with no taxes withheld.  The others were paid utilizing normal payroll procedures.

Marana Police confirmed to Fox 11 that officers there "assisted" the federal agents as they raided the Chuy's Mesquite Broiler restaurant on Ina Road Wednesday morning.

The company website lists seven locations in Tucson for Chuy's Mesquite Broiler, four were raided Wednesday.  The owner of the Chuy's Mesquite Grill at 22nd and Kolb in Tucson contacted Fox 11 at midday Wednesday to say he has been an independent owner/operator of that location since 2003 and his location was not involved in the raids.

The name "Chuy's" is associated with a large number of restaurants in Texas, New Mexico and other locations.  It wasn't immediately apparent which specific restaurants, besides the two in Tucson, are involved in Wednesday's federal raids.