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Tony Hu’s Court Docs Reveal An ‘Assembly Line’ For Money Fraud

The feds are pushing for four years in prison

Tony Hu should be sentenced later this month.
Courtesy of Lao Sze Chuan
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Lao Sze Chuan founder Tony Hu was the face of Chinatown in Chicago, but after his indictment earlier this year, it’s unclear to how many restaurants Hu even owns. In advance of his Nov. 18 sentencing for money fraud, the Tribune took a deep dive into the court documents surrounding the government’s case of the man known as "The Mayor of Chinatown."

Hu could be sentenced to a maximum 51 months in federal prison. The Trib explores the case prosecutors have built and how Hu’s attorneys hope to reduce their client’s punishment. Hu pled guilty in March to bilking the government of $9.8 million in a 23-page agreement.

It’s still unclear what will happen to Hu's restaurants. The chef's fans still remember TV footage of federal agents removing boxes of files from Hu’s Chinatown restaurants. Below, five of the Trib's answers to that day's mystery and more.

  • Investigators made quite a discovery on Hu’s living room couch. They found restaurant records divided into three piles: Those needing to be forged, those already doctored with underreported sales numbers and receipts Hu and his crew planned to shred.
  • The government’s investigation began in 2012, and undercover agents dined at Hu’s restaurants to gain intel.
  • As part of the plea deal, Hu agreed to pay $1.1 in restitution to Illinois.
  • In the plea deal, Hu admitted to using restaurant money from the scheme to pay employees and suppliers without lawfully recording the expenditures. He also spent unreported money on personal expenses.
  • Prosecutors are pushing for more than fours years in prison. Hu’s lawyers seek only probation, noting his positive impact on the Chinatown community.

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