Bai Tong owners plead guilty in $1M ‘cash suppression’ scheme

(Image: Bai Tong)

12th and Pike’s Bai Tong Street Cafe remained open and busy Thursday as the Department of Justice announced two of the restaurant chain’s owners had pleaded guilty to using point of sales software in “a multi-year scheme to hide cash sales” totaling more than $1 million in income.

Kent residents Pornchai Chaiseeha, 41, and Chadillada Lapangkura, 40, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to defraud the government.

Bai Tong opened at 12th and Pike in spring of 2017 in the space left empty when Boom Noodle closed last summer after a decade of shifting concepts by its tech-powered investors behind the Blue C sushi restaurants. Noi Lapangkura told CHS at the time the business had come a long way since her family started on Pacific Highway S in 1989. “Bai Tong has always been a family place,” she told CHS. “We think, with the demographics on Capitol Hill, this one will be different.”

According to U.S. District Court documents in the whirlwind case opened and wrapped up in mere weeks this summer, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations found that point of sales software used to hide the cash transactions was installed at Bai Tong restaurants off the Hill since at least 2010. The chain has operated restaurants in Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii, including four Bai Tong around Seattle and the Eastside. Continue reading

Remember the Capitol Hill deli+speakeasy financial mess? Sibling fashion boutique Estate now shuttered over unpaid rent

Estate, a Capitol Hill street fashion boutique started by people involved in the By the Pound financial implosion on E Olive Way, has suddenly shuttered and owes $10,000 in unpaid rent according to a county eviction notice posted at the 10th Ave retailer’s now emptied Pike/Pine location.

The shop opened in April with “mostly American street style brands in the $40 to $200 range” and managers who said they had put earlier financial issues behind them. “Burrowed in perhaps the coolest stretch of Capitol Hill on 10th Avenue just south of Pike, Estate radiates the ’80s and ’90s pop culture that owner David Lee grew up with,” Seattle Met gushed.

According to King County Superior Court records filed last October, the companies behind Estate owed around three months in in unpaid rent for the Pike/Pine shop before it even opened.

But later court records show a new agreement for the ground floor retail space in the Jack apartment building came with a short leash that required the business to pay off previously unpaid debts — and not fall behind on its lease again. Continue reading

Suspect in Rayshauna Webber murder pleads not guilty

David Nichols faces a count of second degree murder and second degree assault (Image: CHS)

The man police and prosecutors say stabbed and killed 25-year-old Rayshauna Webber in a fight that broke out over his derogatory response to her turning down his offer of a light for her cigarette in the middle of Pike/Pine nightlife crowds in Cal Anderson pleaded not guilty Monday morning in King County Superior Court.

David Nichols, 50, faces charges of second-degree murder and assault in the second degree for the early morning July 14th stabbing that killed Webber and left another woman with a minor cut during a night of partying on Capitol Hill.

According to court documents, two women were with the victim when she was stabbed in the early morning melee in the middle of Pike/Pine’s late nightlife scene. They told police the incident began when the suspect approached the group on the edge of the park and offered to light one of the women’s cigarettes. “When they declined he replied with a derogatory comment,” police write. The women told police they talked with the suspect but a fight quickly broke out. Witnesses told police Nichols pushed Webber who pushed him back. When the suspect struck another of the women, she told police she fell to the ground and realized that Webber had been cut and was “bleeding profusely.” Continue reading

How a carding kingpin got caught and dealt a death blow to the Broadway Grill

Broadway without the Broadway Grill?

It was a summer day in Las Vegas. Inside the Mandalay Bay Convention Center during the annual hacker-focused conference Black Hat, the cybersecurity crowd found refuge from the scorching sun. From the podium in front of the darkened room, Norman Barbosa, a computer crimes prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle, tried to clear the air with some humor.

“The original title to this presentation was nixed,” he said of his talk, titled Ochko123 – How the Feds Caught Russian Mega-Carder Roman Seleznev. “I wanted to go with Ochko123 – Why you shouldn’t use ‘Butthole123’ as the password to your hacking empire,” he quipped. It doesn’t work well.”

“Ochko” means butthole in Russian. That’s not what makes it amusing. Something else renders Roman Seleznev the butt of this joke: The fact that Seleznev’s mega-carding empire, built on brute force password attacks of local businesses’ poorly secured point of sale systems, was exposed by poor security as well. He just couldn’t resist using one of his favorite  passwords, Ochko123, on his laptop holding hundreds of thousands of stolen credit card numbers. Continue reading

Capitol Hill case at center of flap over judge’s cozy relationship with KOMO’s ‘Seattle is Dying’-themed coverage, political group — UPDATE

A call from the Seattle City Attorney for a municipal court judge to step down from his position leading the court over “apparent violations of the canons of judicial ethics” is also shining new light on Seattle media and activists who claim they are dedicated to shaping more accountable government in the city.

Pete Holmes and Anita Khandelwal, director of the Department of Public Defense, say in a letter released Wednesday that Seattle Municipal Court Judge Ed McKenna should step down as presiding judge and recuse himself from criminal cases after “predetermining harsh outcomes for defendants and advertising the sentencings to local media,” Crosscut reports.

The case at the center of the unusual courtroom activities has a Capitol Hill connection. The crime took place last November when an angry man punched a victim without provocation in the crosswalk at Broadway and Pine. The blow sent the victim’s headphones flying and left the shaken man with a swollen lip. It landed the assailant, Francisco Calderon, in jail and set in motion a bizarre episode in Seattle justice with a judge allegedly shaping his proceedings for a television reporter and a political group. Continue reading

By the Pound financial troubles extend off Hill as sibling bar and restaurant evicted in West Seattle

The trouble doesn’t stop on Capitol Hill for the family of businesses around the financially troubled and shuttered E Olive Way speakeasy By the Pound.

Partners and companies related to the shuttered bar concept evicted late last year over thousands of unpaid rent are also named in lawsuits related to West Seattle ventures Vine & Spoon and Alchemy which were also evicted over claims of unpaid rent to end the year. West Seattle Blog reports they “spoke briefly at the end of last week with an ownership representative who said they had a new investor who would assist them in reopening, and they promised to call us back to talk more about their plans.” Continue reading

Seattle moves to toss ‘driving while poor’ warrants

In an effort to help end the often unfair and inequitable cycle that can start from even the lowest level criminal conviction, the City of Seattle has asked that a few hundred warrants for non-violent crimes be tossed out.

“We’re acting to make Seattle a more just city, to recognize that our criminal justice system disproportionately impacts people of color, and to ensure that our officers can focus on the most violent offenders and protecting public safety,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “We must continue to challenge ourselves to discover and provide more effective alternatives to prosecution and incarceration.” Continue reading

Shuttered By the Pound deli speakeasy evicted over thousands in unpaid rent

There’s a bigger mess than the construction reportedly underway at the shuttered By the Pound deli and bar.

A King County Sheriff’s eviction notice has gone up on the venue’s locked E Olive Way door. Court records show the companies behind the project owe more than $75,000 in unpaid rent — plus daily rent of $317.24 for every day after Halloween they didn’t vacate the premise, and more than $1,600 in attorney’s fees and hundreds more in costs. Continue reading

Court upholds Seattle’s pro-renter cap on move-in fees

Kshama Sawant-driven cap on move-in fees that can be charged to renters in Seattle has been upheld by a King County Superior Court judge.

The Seattle City Council approved legislation capping fees in fall 2016 but the new law has been tied up in court by a lawsuit brought be the pro-landlord Rental Housing Association of Washington group.

Under the measure from the District 3 representative, landlords can only charge tenants the first full month’s rent upon move-in and need to allow tenants to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees, and last month’s rent in installments.

The legislation was driven by research conducted by the Washington Community Action Network, an advocacy organization working on housing justice, conducted a survey study on Seattle’s housing crisis. Researchers found almost 90% of respondents said that the biggest barrier to moving into more affordable housing was the prohibitively expensive up-front fees a landlord can charge a new tenant.

It’s not clear what’s next for the cap law. The landlord advocacy group hasn’t said yet if it plans to appeal the ruling.

 

Sawant campaign to ‘Save the Showbox’ at heart of $40M lawsuit

The Kshama Sawant-championed Seattle City Council decision to “save the Showbox” by surgically sliding the 1st Ave venue under the historical protections of the Pike Place Market has the city staring down the barrel of a $40 million lawsuit and an embarrassing reversal of the ordinance.

While District 3 and Capitol Hill representative Sawant is mentioned by name only once in the 22-page suit, her political effort to stymie the planned sale and redevelopment of the property owned by strip club magnate Roger Forbes is front and center in the suit:

When politicians cater to populist calls – whether those calls are “lock her up,” “build the wall,” “ban Muslims,” or “Save the Showbox” – civil and other rights are placed at risk. Populism, and politicians’ desires to appease their loudest constituents and generate headlines must, however, yield to the rule of law. Luckily for those who prefer protection of civil, constitutional and property rights, the courts exist to preserve, protect and enforce the rule of law.

About the D3 council member herself, lawyers at the Seattle-based Byrnes, Keller, and Cromwell firm representing the property — set to be acquired by Canadian developer Onni Group to build a 44-story apartment building after demolition of the Showbox — say Sawant’s actions were an “Appearance of Fairness” violation: Continue reading