Government wants 4.5 years in prison for celebrity chef Tony Hu

ABC 7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Federal prosecutors want celebrity chef Tony Hu sent to prison for hiding millions of dollars in cash receipts to avoid paying taxes.

Chinese restaurant magnate Tony Hu cooked the books and now federal prosecutors say he should do the time. According to newly-filed federal court records, that could be up to four and a half years in prison.

Hu is set to be sentenced November 17 after pleading guilty to hiding almost $10 million in cash sales so he didn't have to pay the taxes.


The case bubbled up two years ago in Chinatown when his restaurants were raided by the FBI and IRS criminal agents. The ABC 7 I-Team was on hand as authorities questioned employees, went through records and carted away 108 bags of paperwork.

According to a newly filed government sentencing memo, "...while the defendant has for years held himself out as a model civic leader with appointments to some of the city's most powerful committees and charities, he was in fact cheating our state and city government, depriving them of precious funds at a time when vital social services faced drastic cuts."

From the time of the raids, Hu's empire took a hit and so did his image, depicted in his celebrity poses for the paying customers to see as they waited for tables.

Little did they know according to prosecutors that, "the defendant hid from state and local government more than $9.8 million in sales, thereby forcing customers to pay over a million dollars in taxes that he redirected to himself rather than the state and local government."

While enduring the legal process, he has continued to grow his famous restaurant group.

Newly-filed court records by Hu's attorneys said he was caught up in "...a culture of pervasive tax evasion."

They suggest his restaurants merely fell into line with those in China, where businesses frequently avoid taxes, operating with "several sets of books."

Because of that and Hu's deep community ties and extensive charitable works his attorneys say he should be given probation and serve no prison time.

According to federal investigators Hu's nine restaurant managers said they systematically paid employees under the table in cash.

Prosecutors said Hu's wife prepared fraudulent books and records for four of the restaurants. As part of Hu's plea agreement, the government has apparently agreed not to prosecute the others involved in the scheme.
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