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Local restaurateur sentenced to federal prison

Written By Scott Joseph On January 2, 2024

Spice patio
The patio at Spice Modern Steakhouse in 2010.

Happy New Year, and whatever your personal outlook for 2024 is, it’s likely to be rosier than Manuel Tato’s.

Tato’s name has appeared in these pages many times over the years. He has opened a number of restaurants in the area, the majority in downtown Orlando. Spice Modern, which went into the former Eola Yacht Club space, was one of the more recent. But he also had Spice Burgr, Rustic Steak in what was originally Rosie O’Grady’s at Church Street Station, Pesca where Lee’s Lakeside used to be, and Pint American Gastropub in Lake Mary. 

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All of those restaurants employed hundreds of workers – 645 between 2010 and 2017, according to the Department of Justice – and Tato, through his company Core Food Group, dutifully withheld employment taxes, federal income taxes, and Medicare and social security deductions.

Problem is, he didn’t send those withholdings off to the government. So last month Tato was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison. (He had faced a maximum of five years, so it could have been worse.) U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton, Jr., also ordered Tato to pay a $250,000 fine and $93,690.66 in restitution. Tato was originally indicted in 2022 and pleaded guilty last April.

What’s still unclear is the extent to which the duped employees are on the hook for the withholdings they believe they dutifully paid to the government.

Are you a former employee of Core Food Group? Send a note to let me know what liability you’re facing.

We hope you find our reviews and news articles useful and entertaining. It has always been our goal to assist you in making informed decisions when spending your dining dollars. If we’ve helped you in any way, please consider making a contribution to help us continue our journalism. Thank you.

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