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Published: Tuesday, 9/20/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Federal agents search six NW Ohio IHOP restaurants, two homes

Simultaneous raids conducted in Ohio, and at an Indiana restaurant

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN AND MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Authorities take boxes out of IHOP on Talmadge on Tuesday. Authorities take boxes out of IHOP on Talmadge on Tuesday.
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Federal agents searched six IHOP restaurants in northwest Ohio and another in Indiana and executed search warrants on two homes and a storage locker Tuesday as part of an investigation that involves Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service.

The nearly simultaneous raids at the popular eateries, including locations in West Toledo and Sylvania, Springfield, and Perrysburg townships, began just after 6 a.m., interrupting the busy breakfast rush at the restaurants.

Some employees arrived to begin their shifts and were greeted by federal agents showing badges and toting guns.

Scott Wilson, a spokesman at the FBI’s Cleveland office, confirmed agents searched the restaurants as well as two area homes and a lock storage facility. Agent Wilson refused to give details about the warrants, which were sealed in court.

“There were quite a few folks involved in this,” Mr. Wilson said.

Federal agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), and local law enforcement officers executed the raids.

There were no arrests and authorities did not detain anyone in the searches. No charges have been filed.

The affected restaurants were at 4045 Talmadge Rd., 6920 West Central Ave., 10151 Fremont Pike; 6535 Airport Hwy., as well as locations in Findlay, Lima, and Evansville, Ind.

According to public records and the local Better Business Bureau Web site, Tarek Elkafrawi, also known as “Terry Elk”; Kamil Madi; and Maazen Kadir have either ownership or management roles in the seven franchises.

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An unidentified man loads the trunk of an SUV with boxes taken from an IHOP on Talmadge Road. An unidentified man loads the trunk of an SUV with boxes taken from an IHOP on Talmadge Road.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

With the exception of the Lima restaurant, Mr. Elkafrawi, who lives in Wood County’s Middleton Township, is listed as the president of all the affected IHOPs and Mr. Kadir is identified as manager of the West Central Avenue and Airport Highway locations. The Lima location is owned by TE & KM, Inc., which is a limited liability company owned by Mr. Elkafrawi.

Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn confirmed Tuesday night that one of the homes where a search warrant was executed was at Mr. Elkafrawi’s Middleton Township residence.

Mr. Elkafrawi and his wife, Kelly Ann Elkafrawi, were not at home Tuesday afternoon and evening and did not respond to a message left seeking comment.

Dry cleaning could be seen hanging from the front door, and a door bolt could be seen lying on the ground in front of the house.

Lisa Wojciechowski, a neighbor, said she believed Mr. Elkafrawi is in poor health. She said his wife is friendly.

She said she doesn’t see her neighbors much and believes they are kept busy traveling to their various restaurants.

Mr. Madi also has ties to the Toledo area. Mr. Madi, who once lived in Sylvania Township, and his family moved to Jordan about a year ago, according to a woman who now lives in the home.

A man who answered the phone at the Airport Highway IHOP confirmed that Mr. Kadir is an “area manager” of IHOP locations, but was out of town and would not be back until next Thursday.

“No one will want to help you with that,” he said when asked if anyone else would comment.

Patrick Lenow, executive director of corporate communications for DineEquity, the parent company of IHOP restaurants and Applebees, said the seven locations are owned by a single franchisee. He refused to divulge the name of the franchise holder or its principals.

Mr. Lenow said he didn’t know the reason for the investigation, but was told by authorities it is not related to terrorism.

He said that three of the affected restaurants had reopened by Tuesday afternoon — those in the immediate Toledo area were operating except the Wood County restaurant — and said the others will do so soon after the investigators returned control of operations to the owners.

According to the IHOP Web site, the minimum financial requirements for a franchisee is $1.5 million net worth and $500,000 in liquid assets.

Donna Logan throws her arms in disgust when Toledo Police turn her away from the IHOP Restaurant on Talmadge as federal agents conduct an investigation. Donna Logan throws her arms in disgust when Toledo Police turn her away from the IHOP Restaurant on Talmadge as federal agents conduct an investigation.
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IHOP released a statement about the raids.

“We were informed [Tuesday] by one of our franchisees about the events at his restaurants in [Ohio] and [Indiana],” the statement said . “We are working to gather the facts and have been in touch with the federal authorities, although we have not been briefed on the matter. We are cooperating fully with the authorities as we seek to gain an understanding of this situation.”

Employees at the IHOP on West Central Avenue in Sylvania Township said they walked into the restaurant and were greeted by federal agents.

Travis Noe, assistant manager of the restaurant, said agents with badges and guns arrived shortly after 6 a.m. He said the agents told him to stay still and allow them to search the place, giving no details on why they were searching the restaurant. After taking out boxes, the agents left about 10:30 a.m.

Nathaniel Coachman, who also works at the IHOP on West Central, said he was ordered immediately to put his hands up in the air when he reported for work Tuesday morning.

“I walked through the door and I thought I was going downtown,” he said.

The employees said there were no customers in the restaurant while the search was conducted.

At the Talmadge location, officers carried out at least a dozen white banker boxes, some labeled “IHOP” in red marker, which were put in the back of a black unmarked SUV, which was guarded by a Toledo police officer.

Sisters Donna Logan and Delores Busby, both of Toledo, tried to get breakfast Tuesday morning at the IHOP in West Toledo but were turned away by a police officer.

“He said all IHOPs were closed,” Ms. Busby said. “It’s unbelievable.”

The women said they come to IHOP to eat at least twice a month.

Ms. Busby said she heard a rumor about why the restaurants were closed but “didn’t believe it.”

A man, who appeared to be an employee, went into the Talmadge location just before noon; he did not respond to a message — left on his car — for comment. He put notes on the windows of the restaurant that stated the location was “closed for cleaning” and directed patrons to the Airport Highway spot.

Staff writers Ignazio Messina, Nolan Rosenkrans, and Jim Sielicki contributed to this report.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at:

tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.



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