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Grocer Processed $48 Million, Deputies Say

By GEOFF FOX, The Tampa Tribune
Published: Mar 24, 2007

DADE CITY - The owner of a popular Mexican grocery store in Dade City processed more than $48 million in third-party checks over 2
1/2 years, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report states.  Jose Frias, 41, owner of Del Carmen Mexican Store, 14415 Seventh St., was
arrested Thursday and charged with criminal racketeering. He is accused of operating an illegal check-cashing business out of the
store. He was being held in the Land O' Lakes jail Friday afternoon with bail set at $150,000.

Frias was being investigated by the sheriff's office, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and a countywide drug task force.
No drugs were found Thursday during raids of the store, Frias' home or the La Onda nightclub on Lock Street, which he owns, the
sheriff's office said.  

Maria Frias is listed as a co-defendant on a sheriff's report. No charges had been filed against her Friday afternoon, sheriff's
spokesman Doug Tobin said.  "It's an ongoing investigation," he said. "We literally have hundreds of thousands of accounting entries to
go through. More charges could be filed involving more people. The investigators seem pleased with the level of cooperation they're
getting from Maria and Jose. Hopefully that will continue."

Jose Frias, who is not a U.S. citizen, moved to the United States from Mexico more than 20 years ago as a farm worker, his family
said. He opened Del Carmen about 10 years ago.

Besides cashing third-party checks, his activities might have included money laundering, banking fraud, overcharging customers to
cash checks and fraud connected to electronic money transfers to Mexico, the sheriff's office said.

Reporter Geoff Fox can be reached at (813) 948-4217