Deal To Buy Restaurant Collapses

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Mikiyo Yonemura's deal to buy Mario's Restaurant has collapsed.

The restaurant's owner, Dave Conti, said that his lawyer faxed the self-described entrepreneur a notice Thursday that the deal was off.

"All agreed dates for deposits of additional funds have expired," the letter stated. "You have failed to meet all dates agreed upon. All purchase agreements have ended for Mario's Restaurant, Payson, Ariz."

"The Conti family has taken a stand," Conti said in an interview with the Roundup shortly after the decision was made. "The deadlines were bypassed, the agreements expired, and we said, 'No more. That's it.' So the Mario's sale is off."

In his first agreement with Yonemura, Conti said, a $10,000 earnest money check was due and delivered to Conti in early May but that check bounced. Yonemura then returned with a cashier's check for $2,000, which Conti accepted and used to open an escrow account.

According to the initial purchase agreement, more money was due Conti on Thursday, May 25 but the day came and went with no payment, Conti said. Yonemura asked that the deadline be extended to Wednesday, May 31, which it was but again, the day passed without money changing hands.

"Supposedly on June 7, (Yonemura) will have all his funding in line again," Conti said. "That's another date that he tried to get us to agree to. What happens if he walks into our broker's office with the full sale amount on that day? Would we sell to him? That's a decision that we as a family, as a company, would have to make at that time.

"We did not have any background information on Mr. Yonemura," Conti said. "He came to us through a brokerage out of Phoenix. Initially, everything looked fine ... but as the process moved along, it just became problem after problem after problem with the funding, with the good faith escrow money, and then he blew past those deadlines.

"It's over," Conti said. "But Mario's is here, and Mario's is here to stay."

Extradition falls through

Repeated attempts this week by the Roundup to talk with Yonemura about his proposed restaurant deal and his background failed. He agreed to meet with Roundup reporters in Payson Tuesday, but did not show up.

Earlier this week the Roundup found that Yonemura who has promised that his plan to purchase Mario's Restaurant will bring $21 million to Payson, including $6.7 million to the Payson School District has an outstanding California bench warrant for his 1997 arrest for the possession and use of methamphetamine.

According to superior court documents from San Bernardino County, Calif., Yonemura pleaded guilty to both counts, but then repeatedly failed to appear in court. A warrant for his arrest was issued May 20, 1999, from the San Bernardino County Superior Court.

Payson police tried this week to arrange Yonemura's extradition to San Bernardino County which would have allowed Arizona law officers to arrest Yonemura but were unsuccessful.

"These things always depend on what court you have and how they interpret what takes place," Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said. "Sometimes we see a little difference between California and Arizona law. In Arizona, in most cases, this would have resulted in a felony warrant."

Criminal history surfaces

The drug arrest warrant is just one entry in Yonemura's police record.

According to Riverside County, Calif. Superior Court documents, he also was arrested in April 1999 on a misdemeanor charge of making a terrorist threat, for which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 20 days in jail, ordered to pay a $210 fine and placed on probation for three years. He served five days in jail and has not yet paid his fine.

In June 1996, according to Globe Police records, he was arrested in Globe and charged with theft for failing to return 16 books he'd checked out of the Globe Public Library, for which he also pleaded guilty.

In the same month, the police records show Yonemura was arrested for failing to return a videotape recorder and four video cassettes he had rented from a Globe video store.

False front

None of this information appears on the resume Yonemura handed to Conti in an early meeting between the two.

Yonemura's resume states that from 1991 to 1996, he was the "general manager and 30-percent invested partner" in Lowell's Steakhouse and Lounge in Austin, Texas.

No business of that name, incorporated or unincorporated, has ever operated in Austin, according to the Austin County Clerk and the Texas Secretary of State's office, which together handle all of Austin's business licenses. The Austin Chamber of Commerce also had no record of the restaurant.

Yonemura's "partnership goal" in the non-existent restaurant, his resume states, was to "convert steakhouse from 'fine dining steakhouse' which was losing capital into 'family steakhouse/restaurant' of a high profitable nature."

To that end, Yonemura stated on his resume that he "reconstructed (the) menu, personnel structure, interior, and redesigned (the) kitchen area. Increased (the) profit base from a stance of $780,000 with expenses of $775,000 to a posture of $1.4 million with expenses of $1 million and $500,000 profit yearly. (I) sold partnership when all goals were met and to seek own restaurant."

Not only was the restaurant nonexistent, Yonemura's legal records show that, although he was in many places between 1991 and 1996, he did not have a home address in Texas.

In 1992, Yonemura was in Memphis, Tenn., filing for a Chapter 13 personal debt reorganization bankruptcy, the documents of which show his home address to have been in Memphis.

In 1993, Yonemura was sued by a company in Portland, Ore. and ordered to pay a judgment of $1,325, which shows his home address to have been in the Portland suburb of Beaverton.

And in 1996, Yonemura was working as a restaurant dishwasher in Globe, according to a Globe business owner.

An investigative search of Yonemura's previous addresses revealed that, between 1991 and 1996, he lived in Globe; Memphis; Heth, Ark.; Delaware, Ohio; Omaha, Neb.; Phoenix; and Denver, Colo.

In fact, for the period between June 1992 and May 2000, the investigative search found 17 possible addresses for Yonemura but none in Austin or anywhere else in Texas.

Degrees of uncertainty

On his resume, Yonemura further asserts that he attended the University of Tokyo in Japan, where he majored in international affairs, minored in industrial psychology, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1979.

The Roundup made a number of calls to Japan, and while no direct numbers for the "University of Tokyo" are listed, the Roundup was able to contact Tokyo University, which has a number of schools broken down by majors.

It does not have a school for international affairs. According to a university staff member, the closest equivalent to international affairs, is Tokyo University's economics school, of which Yonemura was not a graduate.

Service record

The military record Yonemura outlines on his resume is "impossible," according to Gordon Holm, a retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Marine Corps now living in Payson after serving 29 years in the military.

The resume states that Yonemura graduated from the Palo Alto Military Academy in 1968, when he would have been 16 years old. It also indicates that he was a first lieutenant in Company C, First Battalion, 75th Rangers, in the United States Army, and that he received an honorable discharge in 1971 when he was 19 years old.

The document also claims that Yonemura was a master sergeant with the United States Embassy in Germany with the United States Marine Corps, receiving an honorable discharge in 1985.

And according to his resume, Yonemura was recalled to Iraq by the U.S. Marine Corps from 1996 to 1997 when he was actually working as a dishwasher in Globe.

"This military record is a dream on (Yonemura's) part," said Holm, who enlisted in 1950 and had continuous service, either active duty or reserve, until his 1980 retirement.

"No one is a 19-year-old first lieutenant in the Airborne ... And then to show up 11 years later as a master sergeant with the U.S. Embassy; that time frame doesn't fit.

"And to be recalled in Iraq 11 years later is totally bogus. It's impossible."

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