Restaurateur among those who bribed Metts, indictment says

Special to The StateJune 17, 2014 

— Restaurateur Gregorio M. Leon, also known as Greg Leon, 47, has been charged by a State Grand Jury with offering bribes to officers, a felony.

Leon, 47, owns a chain of San Jose Mexican restaurants in Richland and Lexington counties, but not every San Jose is his. Other family members own some of the restaurants.

The indictment alleges Leon bribed Lexington County Sheriff James Metts so that illegal immigrants facing deportation who worked for Leon could return to work at his restaurants.

Leon is one of three indicted by the State Grand Jury, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson announced Tuesday. The charge carries up to five years in prison or one year in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.

Leon’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said Tuesday that neither he nor his client would comment.

Leon has had prior run-ins with the law and seems to enjoy gambling.

In January 2006, Leon paid a $257 fine for a cockfighting charge in Aiken County. He had been arrested on the charge in November 2002 when police busted a large ring in Aiken County.

That bust led officials to investigate former S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Charles Sharpe, who in 2004 was sentenced to two years in prison for extortion and lying to federal officers in connection with a cockfighting ring.

In that case, a magistrate judge told Sharpe to avoid contact with four potential witnesses in the case, one of whom was Leon.

In 2007, Leon was seen at a horse track in Lexington County’s Swansea community that had been built in the Mexican racing tradition. Those race tracks had popped up in South Carolina as the state’s Hispanic population grew.

The races featured two horses who sprinted down a straight course as hundreds of people cheered. Hundreds of dollars would change hands through informal bets for each race, and Leon was in the middle of it all.

In 2012, Leon and family members Eraclio Leon and Antonio Leon agreed to pay 37 employees $390,960 in back wages following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, which found overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping violations at four restaurants.

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