Man accused of digging insurmountable hole restaurant chain couldnt recover from

RichardsonA former executive at a Tigard-based restaurant chain has pleaded not guilty to accusations that he stole about $1 million from the company while serving as its chief operating officer.

Richard Lee Anderson, 55, of Tigard faces 22 counts of theft in what prosecutors say was the final nail in the coffin for Typhoon, the Thai restaurant chain based on Southwest Durham Road that closed its doors earlier this year.

Anderson — who was arraigned in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Tuesday — served as the company’s chief operating officer before leaving the company in early 2011.

Prosecutors say Anderson embezzled nearly $1 million from employee tax withholdings, instead of submitting them to the federal and state governments.

Prosecutors say Anderson swindled the company out of thousands of dollars nearly every month from February 2009 until leaving the company in January 2011.

Deputy District Attorney Kevin Demer said Typhoon’s owners Steve and Bo Kline weren’t aware the company was not paying its taxes and trusted Anderson.

Demer said the missing tax money played a significant role in the restaurant chain’s downfall.

“It was an insurmountable hole that Anderson dug for them,” Demer said.

Bo Kline closed the company’s five remaining restaurants earlier this year, including one at The Round at Beaverton Central.

When it closed, the company owed about $2.25 million in unpaid payroll taxes, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.

Anderson’s attorney Pete Castleberry did not return calls for comment.

Investigators say Anderson kept the payroll money for himself, would have Typhoon cater parties for friends or family and hire limousines for trips to the airport.

Anderson filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection two days after the restaurant chain closed its doors. At the time, Anderson said he personally loaned Typhoon $750,000. He later said the loan was about $58,000.

Neither Anderson’s wife nor daughter face charges in the case though they were involved in Typhoon’s operations. Anderson’s daughter worked as the company’s human resource manager, and his wife had the power to sign checks even though she was not an employee.

Investigators are asking former Typhoon employees and other businesses to come forward with information that may be useful to the case.

“One of the challenges we have is how was that money spent?” Demer told The Times’ news partner KOIN. “We can show the money transfers, but we would like to know more, as far as how the money was spent ... Perhaps people that learn about this case will think, ‘Oh, now I recall, maybe a limousine being paid for or perhaps free catering from Typhoon.’ ”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Demer at 503-988-3162.

Anderson’s next court appearance was set for Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Ongoing trouble

Anderson’s arrest is the latest in a series of developments for the former Thai chain, which employed about 300 people across Oregon and Washington.

The company began with a single Northwest Portland restaurant in 1995, eventually growing to more than a half-dozen restaurants, but came under fire in recent years for alleged abuses of its Thai workers.

Former chefs claimed the company abused an international work visa program to bring workers from Thailand to cook in the restaurants.

The state Bureau of Labor and Industries accused the company of paying its Thai workers less, working them longer hours and having them sign unfavorable contract terms that were not faced by non-Thai workers.

The bureau reached a $100,000 settlement with the company in 2011.

In July 2011, a three-member arbitration panel cleared the company of claims it was involved in human trafficking stemming from a 2008 lawsuit. However, the panel found the company discriminated against a Thai chef who sued Typhoon for workers compensation and unpaid overtime.

Co-owner Steve Kline died of a heart attack the next month, and the company closed its doors in February 2012. At the time, Bo Kline cited her husband’s death as the primary reason.

The chain operated restaurants in Portland, Beaverton, Gresham, Bend and Redmond, Wash., as well as a catering business in its Tigard headquarters.

Two former chefs are also suing the company, Bo Kline and the estate of Steve Kline for $4.9 million in damages and lost wages. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges the defendants violated federal and state labor laws.

KOIN Local 6 reporter Brent Weisberg contributed to this story.

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