The Washington State Attorney General’s Office has filed charges of theft and 24 counts of filing false tax returns against the operator of the now-closed Bayside Cafe in Bellingham, at the request of the state Department of Revenue.
The charges accuse former Bayside Cafe operator, James Alpha Brown, of theft of at least $286,000 in sales tax collected from customers but not remitted to the revenue department. The felony charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
According to a statement from the revenue department, Brown told state auditors that he had undergone financial difficulties and had used the tax revenues he collected to pay family members’ salaries.
The charges brought in Whatcom County Superior Court were the result of a revenue department audit that determined Brown had reported only about 27 percent of the sales tax he had collected from 2008 through early 2012.
The Bayside Cafe, which opened in 1994, closed unexpectedly last fall. Brown operated the restaurant through Port Investments, Inc., which previously operated The Marina restaurant from 1987 through October 1997. The Marina closed after state officials audited that business and assessed it $211,000 for understating its income, according to the Department of Revenue.
A Poulsbo-based restaurant company took over the Bayside Cafe’s lease last December—the cafe was located at 1801 Roeder Ave.—and it plans to open a new waterfront eatery in the location.