The FBI executed search warrants Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at several Toledo-area IHOP locations. There is no official word about the type or target of the investigation. However, employees say investigators asked them about financial records.
Investigators also went to a bank near one of the stores as part of the investigation. Warrants were sealed, pending further investigation, and questions have been referred to the U.S. Attorney. Calls to that office have yet to be returned to 13abc.
The FBI was accompanied on the raids by authorities from the U.S. Immigration Control, Homeland Security, and local police and sheriff's departments.
Raids began around 6:00am and included IHOP stores in Perrysburg, Sylvania, Findlay, Lima, Central Avenue, Talmadge Road and Evansville, Indiana. The FBI seized boxes of documents; some were sitting in front of the restaurant. Some of the boxes were labeled as payroll or application records. At one location, a police officer was stationed in the parking lot.
Local managers tell 13abc that some IHOP locations have already re-opened for business and the rest will do so Tuesday afternoon.
Managers told 13abc's Kristian Brown that all employees should report for work for their normal shifts. They say they have done nothing wrong and will cooperative with authorities.
The owner of the local restaurants, Tarek Elkasrawi, was at an IHOP meeting out of the area today. He is now returning to the local area.
One employee said that authorities arrived at the Talmadge and Sylvania location just after 6:00am today.
IHOP spokesman Erin Mand issued a statement:
"We were advised this morning by one of our franchisees that the FBI closed his seven restaurants in OH and IN and are conducting an investigation. We later learned that three of the restaurants have since re-opened. We do not know about any specific charges or allegations. We are working to gather information and learn more, and will cooperate fully with authorities as we seek to gain an understanding of this situation."
Several customers who intended to grab early morning cups of coffee at the restaurants expressed surprise at the developments.