Owners’ illegal activity to shut down major Austin clubs

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Ten Austin area residents connected with Yassine Enterprises, operator of several Austin night club venues, were arrested yesterday in a federal investigation related to drug and money laundering charges.

The FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Comptroller’s Office, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Austin Police Department were all involved in “official business” at Treasure Island Pirate Bar on Sixth Street near Neches Street, said IRS spokesman Mike Lemoine. FBI agents and other department officials were seen at the bar collecting documents and boxes of potential evidence around 11 a.m. Thursday.

Lemoine said the investigation of Yassine Enterprises involves all venues managed by the company: Treasure Island Pirate Bar, Pure Ultra Lounge, Kiss & Fly, Stack Burger Bar, Malaia World Lounge, Roial, Hyde, Fuel and Spill.

Company owner and president Hussein Ali Yassine, also known as Mike Yassine, 40, was among those arrested.

According to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice, “Authorities believe that [Hussein Ali Yassine, Hadi Ali Yassine, 35, Mohammed Ali Yassine, 38, and Marisse Marthe Ruales, 33] used several business establishments located in downtown Austin to launder over $200,000 in cash, which they believed to be the proceeds of narcotics trafficking.”

According to the statement, the Government is filing criminal charges and seeking monetary judgements against the defendants totaling about $300,000, which they claim represents property involved in the alleged offenses.

All defendants are still in federal custody and face maximum prison sentences anywhere from 20 years to life, according to FBI spokesman Erik Vasys and the statement. Federal authorities also believe defendants Mohammed Ali Yassine and Nizar Hakiki, 32, transferred a firearm with the knowledge that the weapon would be used to commit a drug trafficking crime.

Mohammed Ali Yassine and Amar Thabet Araf, 29 are accused of distributing large quantities of cocaine between December 2007 and January 11, 2008, according to their official indictment.

“[Three of the defendants] unlawfully, knowingly and willfully did combine conspire, confederate and agree with others known and unknown to distribute five hundred grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine,” the indictment stated.

The United States Government sought to hold Yassine and Araf liable for the forfeiture of $13,600, “constituting the proceeds of the above-described offenses,” in the indictment.

All defendants appeared in court yesterday afternoon and are scheduled to have a further hearing on Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Green.

Yassine Enterprises is also the subject of a class action lawsuit filed by former employee Jake Webb, who claims that the company regularly refused to pay wages to tipped employees. That case does not appear at this point to be related to the federal investigation.

APD officers have been assisting the FBI with the investigation and were present for the search, said Lisa Cortinas, spokeswoman for APD.

Printed on Friday, March 23, 2012 as: FBI investigates alleged illegal activity at clubs