MIAMI (AP) - A South Florida couple whose supermarket chain also offers financial services have been charged with fraud and money laundering charges that could land them in prison for decades.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater identified the Pinecrest couple as 45-year-old John Diaz and his wife, 44-year-old Mercedes Avila-Diaz. They operate Diaz Supermarkets, four of which have been closed after authorities raided them last week.
The stores were popular neighborhood locations that catered to Latino customers and included cafeterias and specialty butcher shops. The couple also operated a tax preparation service, Diavila Enterprises Inc., and offered check-cashing and wire transfer services at their supermarkets.
Atwater said the couple didn't provide required workers' compensation, laundered drug money and also violated several money service business laws. All told, the Diazes collectively face up to 95 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
The investigation also revealed the existence of 30 shell companies affiliated with the Diazes that have now been shut down, Atwater said. Suspected fraudulent transactions totaling $335 million have been identified regarding those entities.
Court records on Tuesday did not list an attorney for the couple. But one customer of a Diaz Supermarket in Naranja said it was hard to believe the couple was involved in such large scale fraud.
"I have been shopping there for a few years," Carmelia Mejia told The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/XEknCs ). "The owners were nice people."
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