The founder of a popular Antelope Valley-based Mexican fast-food restaurant chain, facing 31 felony charges for alleged payroll and reporting irregularities, agreed Monday to consider a plea bargain that could send him to County Jail for up to one year.
Armando L. Sanchez, 38, of Granada Hills, who founded the Taco Tec chain in 1988 with a store in Palmdale, waived a scheduled preliminary hearing Monday on the charges in Bakersfield Municipal Court. As a result, he faces a Sept. 27 arraignment on the charges in Superior Court.
Sanchez has until then to accept the plea bargain offered by a prosecutor Monday, under which the businessman would have to make partial restitution of about $60,000 before sentencing. Otherwise, the case would proceed to trial where Sanchez would face up to six years in state prison if convicted.
Kern County Deputy Dist. Atty. C. M. Starr II said the charges against Sanchez, filed in June, allege that he failed to make proper withholding payments to the state on behalf of Taco Tec employees for state income taxes and unemployment and disability insurance during 1992 and early 1993.
Starr said the charges involve Taco Tecs owned by the company and Sanchez personally, including two in Lancaster and four in Kern County. State Employment Development Department officials have estimated that Sanchez owes them nearly $200,000 in unpaid contributions and penalties, Starr said.
If Sanchez accepts the plea bargain and pays the initial restitution, Starr said the sentencing judge would then decide how much more money Sanchez would have to repay over a five-year term of probation. Sanchez and his attorney have said they believe he owed the state a much smaller amount.
The Taco Tec chain grew to about 18 outlets throughout Southern California in recent years, although some of those locations since have been sold to other owners and are not involved in the case. In the past, Sanchez has blamed his troubles on the recession and claimed harassment by authorities.