May 13, 2002
Operator of Clifford's restaurant charged with tax theft
KENMORE - The state charged the owner/operator of the popular Clifford's restaurant in Kenmore with felony counts of stealing tax and operating a business after its license was revoked.
The State Attorney General's Office filed charges in King County Superior Court against Kwong Yee (Jonathan) Tam, 55, of Issaquah. The charges carry maximum penalties of 10 years in jail and a $20,00 fine.
The charges were brought on behalf of the Washington State Department of Revenue, which assisted in the investigation of the restaurant and bar located at 6251 NE Bothell Way overlooking the north end of Lake Washington.
Tam operated Clifford's restaurant as a sole-proprietorship since he opened it in July 1998. The restaurant had a reputation for good seafood and steak dinners, serving a prime rib special on weekdays and a brunch on weekends.
According to charging papers, the Department of Revenue revoked Tam's business license on Oct. 30, 2001, after he failed to file tax returns, reneged on agreements to pay nearly $40,000 in back taxes and penalties, and repeatedly failed to appear at meetings to resolve the issue.
Tam is solely responsible for all of the bookkeeping and tax reporting functions at the restaurant.
Revocation notices were posted at the restaurant twice, but Tam allegedly tore down the notices and continued to operate, telling his employees that he "couldn't be shut down" and the Department of Revenue "couldn't touch me."
Concerned employees had Tam sign a statement assuring them that he had resolved the issue with the state, and they could work there without getting in trouble.
Investigators determined that Tam continued to operate the business daily and collect nearly $7,200 in sales tax without remitting it to the state as required by law.
The restaurant has been closed since revenue agents executed a search warrant on April 4.