Owner of downtown Austin clubs, others face drug, money laundering and firearms charges

Statesman.com on March 22, 2012 released the following:

“By Gary Dinges

Update: In federal indictments unsealed this afternoon, 11 people reportedly associated with Yassine Enterprises, operator of several downtown nightclubs, are accused of engaging in a variety of crimes, including distributing cocaine, transferring firearms used to commit drug trafficking and money laundering.

Owner and president Hussein Ali Yassine — known as Mike Yassine — is charged with money laundering, according to court documents, as well as conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

Citing federal money-laundering statutes, federal prosecutors are seeking a court order that would require Mike Yassine, as well as two other defendants, to forfeit $214,500.

Others charged include:

  • Marisse Marthe Ruales — known as Madi: conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and money laundering.
  • Hadi Ali Yassine: conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and money laundering.
  • Mohammed Ali Yassine — known as Steve Austin: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine, transferring a firearm knowing it is to be used in a drug trafficking crime and money laundering.
  • Sami Derder: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of cocaine.
  • Edgar Orsini: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of cocaine.
  • Amar Thabet Araf: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.
  • Alejandro Melendrez — known as Alex and Cueta: distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.
  • Nizar Hakiki — also known as Nino: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, distribution of cocaine and transferring a firearm knowing it is to be used in a drug trafficking crime.
  • Karim Faiq: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute 5 kilos or more of cocaine.
  • An unidentified defendant is also charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.

All of the alleged crimes, according to court records, occurred in 2008 and 2009.

Earlier: Agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are at the offices of Yassine Enterprises, which operates several downtown nightclubs, this morning collecting documents as part of an investigation.

Agents were spotted hauling boxes into the Yassine offices at 213 W. Fourth St. shortly after 10 a.m.

An FBI spokesman called the investigation “usual and routine,” but said he could provide no additional details, while an IRS spokesman said the agency was conducting “official business.”

Austin police police were also on scene. A spokeswoman confirmed police had been called at the FBI’s request. She referred all other questions to the FBI’s spokesman, as did a spokeswoman for the TABC.

The IRS spokesman said there have been “several” arrests made in connection with the case, but declined to elaborate. A federal hearing was slated to be held on the case this afternoon in Austin, the spokesman said.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency and state comptroller’s office are also part of the investigation, officials said.

Yassine owns Pure, Spill, Kiss & Fly, Stack Burger Bar, Treasure Island, Hyde, Fuel, Malaia and Roial.

The company is the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed this year that alleges more than 200 employees were paid less than federal law requires.

It was not immediately clear if today’s searches are related to the suit.

Jake Webb, a one-time bartender at Roial, claims in legal documents that Yassine was “generally paying no wages at all to tipped employees,” such as bartenders and waiters.

“When (Webb) went to pick up his check, he was told bartenders don’t get paychecks,” Dan Byrne, one of Webb’s attorneys, told the American-Statesman in January. “After talking with him, we had an inkling this was a bigger deal.”

Yassine’s attorneys released this statement after learning of the suit: “Yassine is cooperating in the class action and is committed to complying with all laws regarding the payment of tipped employees.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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