Raul Gil, who found success as a restaurateur in Las Vegas with his Casa Don Juan Mexican eateries and who rose from a rural family farm in Mexico, is now headed to federal prison for skimming $5 million in cash and evading federal and state taxes over four years.
Gil had created a multimillion-dollar business and weathered the COVID epidemic and a devastating fire at his flagship restaurant before his downfall. His fall from grace came after he deceived IRS tax agents, federal prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon this month sentenced Gil to three years and one month in a penitentiary as recommended by federal prosecutors, who said Gil’s skimming of $5 million resulted in a loss of $1.6 million in federal taxes and $445,820 in sales taxes for the state of Nevada, court documents show.
Gil, 64, took cash that his managers had deposited in his restaurant’s safe, including state sales taxes paid by customers, to support a “lavish lifestyle” and pay for “profitable real estate investments,” prosecutors stated.
His 37-month sentence, along with three more years of supervised release and more than $2.22 million in restitution, will send “a strong and important message” to other restaurant owners, they stated.
Despite multiple efforts by the Review-Journal, Gil could not be reached for comment.
Gordon ordered Gil to serve his sentence at the minimum security satellite camp at the U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona, starting April 5.
‘Could’ve easily paid his taxes’
The federal complaint claimed Gil evaded federal and state taxes between 2014 and 2018, and from 2012 to 2018 bought at least six investment properties for $2.19 million that are now worth $5.2 million, the value of which “could easily have paid his taxes,” according to the U.S. government.
Gil also lied to IRS revenue and criminal division agents when he claimed his records from the business’ point-of-sale software were accurate, the complaint stated.
During an audit in July 2018, he told his accountant to give the agents false profit and loss statements to match figures on his tax returns and had instructed his bookkeeper to provide them with inaccurate cash and sales documents supposedly from files stored in the software, based on the complaint.
Agents later discovered the tax evasion after examining the true POS and paper business records, prosecutors said. In 2021, Gil confessed that his sales tax and tax return records were inaccurate, they said.
He pleaded guilty to tax evasion last August.
His defense lawyers offer a different view of Gil, as a risk-taking entrepreneur who struggled to keep his businesses afloat in troubled times and his eventual break-up with his wife, Maria Gil, in 2021.
Gil has accepted responsibility and has paid $1.52 million in restitution so far, his lawyers stated.
“Mr. Gil is extremely remorseful for his conduct,” they said.
He opened his first Casa Don Juan outlet in 1995 on Main Street in a fledgling area of downtown now known as the Arts District, where it grew in popularity with tourists as well as city and Clark County employees.
Gil did so well downtown that he opened two more restaurants, court filings show.
His Las Vegas attorneys George Kelesis and Sunethra Muraldhara stated that their client “is extremely remorseful for his conduct” and that he “acted out of fear” of losing his businesses and his wife and “from a desire to protect his family and provide for them.”
In a biographical sketch of his life, the lawyers stated that Gil was born in 1959 in an impoverished town in Jocotitlan, Mexico.
Gil and his six siblings lived in an adobe house on a farm, they said. At 13, he planted extra corn and with a sister sold it at a local market, using the money to buy chickens to provide eggs for his family.
In 1986, he married Maria and they emigrated to California. He started working at a Mexican fast-food outlet and in 1991, opened a food truck business.
Ups and downs
Gil then moved his family to Las Vegas to start a business and stopped in the original Casa Don Juan restaurant where the owner told Gil he could buy the place for $100,000. Gil negotiated it down to $65,000, his lawyers said. He kept the name, employed his kids and crafted his own Mexican recipes, but ran into financial trouble in the mid-1990s.
He weathered that stretch by making food deliveries and the restaurant survived, becoming one of the first businesses in the Arts District.
In 2005, a fire burned down Casa Don Juan, the lawyers stated. Gil was not insured and had to stay closed. He was able to reopen after Rex Bell Jr., a former Clark County district attorney, gave him a $300,000 loan.
Gil opened two new Casa Don Juan restaurants — in Summerlin in 2015 and Henderson in 2017 — but the restaurants had to close for several months in 2020 due to COVID, and he went into debt to stay afloat, the lawyers said.
He didn’t pay his taxes was “out of fear” of not being able to provide for his family and losing his wife, not out of greed or desire for wealth, the lawyers stated.
He made a “poor decision to under report” his gross receipts and “fear clouded his judgment,” they wrote.
In 2021, his wife asked him for a divorce and he agreed, letting her have the Main Street restaurant. Gil also takes care of his 96-year-old mother, his lawyers said.
His lawyers filed copies of more than three dozen letters of support for Gil. In one letter, former Las Vegas attorney Marlene Luna recalled when Gil “donated 4,000 meals to one school when he was asked, and did not hesitate. He helps students by employing them and working with their school schedules.”