Update: Search warrant for Puerto Vallarta Restaurant; owner arrested, say sheriff’s deputies

9:05 AM: Thanks to those who tipped us to an operation in The Junction this morning involving King County Sheriff’s Deputies seen in the parking lot behind businesses in the 4700 block of California SW. A KCSO spokesperson at the scene told WSB that they are investigating possible “illegally obtained alcohol” and had a warrant to search Puerto Vallarta Restaurant. They are questioning “several people” but had not made any arrests as of the time we spoke with them. Deputies also are at a home about a block away. We are working to find out more and will add to this story as we get additional details.

10:22 AM UPDATE: We noted the presence of at least one Washington State Liquor Control Board agent at the scene, so we asked LCB spokesperson Brian Smith if his agency has any additional information. He says it’s a KCSO operation and they “are there at KCSO’s request to provide technical expertise.”

3:11 PM UPDATE: Update from KCSO spokesperson Sgt. Kathleen Larson, who we spoke with this morning at the scene; she provided an update via e-mail: “Today Detectives with the King County sheriff’s Office served a search warrant at the Puerto Vallarta Mexican restaurant in the 4700 block of California Ave. SW. The owner of the restaurant is suspected of buying alcohol stolen from local retail stores and using it in his business. The suspect is a 47 year old male. He was booked into the King County Jail for Investigation of Trafficking in Stolen Property and Organized Retail Theft.” We also have confirmed that the house searched a block away is that of the restaurant’s owner. We don’t know yet what was found at the two locations, but we did note boxes being loaded into a law-enforcement van behind the restaurant earlier this afternoon.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: The suspect, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, is being released from jail this afternoon, with a decision on charges or no charges to be made at a later date.

55 Replies to "Update: Search warrant for Puerto Vallarta Restaurant; owner arrested, say sheriff's deputies"

  • Brian M. September 26, 2013 (12:22 pm)

    My margarita is no bueno?

  • Steve September 26, 2013 (12:28 pm)

    We love everyone that works at Puerto Vallarta…hope this turns out to be nothing!

  • Azimuth September 26, 2013 (2:06 pm)

    What about investigating possible bad parking by cops? ;-)

    • WSB September 26, 2013 (2:49 pm)

      At 7 am, I think we can probably spot them a few spaces. Anyway, they were there until a short time ago – a van being filled with boxes – just as we were about to take a photo, they finished up and left. I’m expecting some additional information from investigators shortly and will update the story … TR

  • kam September 26, 2013 (3:24 pm)

    Ha ha you got busted!! good job L.C.B.

  • WesCAddle September 26, 2013 (4:20 pm)

    “My margarita is no bueno?” best quote of the day.

  • Terry September 26, 2013 (5:02 pm)

    Oh no, the gov didn’t get their cut? Heartbreaking.

  • Del Martini September 26, 2013 (5:29 pm)

    The owner of the Puerto Vallarta has given a whole new meaning to ‘Buy and Sell Local’.

    @ Terry, did you not read the part about how this is a suspected case of trafficking in stolen alcohol? Or are you just in the running for jumping to conclusions via your political beliefs?

  • shontel September 26, 2013 (6:17 pm)

    The owner is a very good friend of mine and he has helped several people in the community. This is not how he works and has been burned by several people. What happened to innocent until proven guilty.

  • A&M September 26, 2013 (6:20 pm)

    Like so many others, my wife and I both love their food but stopped eating there about 5 years ago after learning about the horrible conditions he let one of the rental properties he owns fall in to.

    I know first-hand that this is true, that the condition of the exterior AND interior of the apts at one specific location on 48th just north of Admiral is deplorable, and the shoddy, borderline dangerous repair work he had done in one of the bathrooms is would never pass an inspection.

    That property is now the eye-sore of a really nice neighborhood.

    After realizing the condition of that rental property we had to wonder what’s going on behind-the-scenes at the restaurant and have never stepped foot in there since.

    In fact, a few years later I won a $50 gift certificate they had provided to a local charity and gave it back to the charity to use to raise more funds.

  • alkiamz September 26, 2013 (6:28 pm)

    Shame on all of you Lalo & his family have been a part of our community for many many yrs when you’ve had a love one pass how many received food for free from him and how many times over the last year has he been robbed shame on you spd for not putting end to it & targeting him instead remember in this country we’re innocent until proven guilty so instead of running like ants from a burning piece of wood stand by your neighbor in a time of need

  • Lalo es POS September 26, 2013 (7:23 pm)

    sorry shontel and alkiamz the owner is not a good man. He wrongfully terminated his best bartender and has lost a ton of business since then. His business is struggling and I can definitely see him resorting to these measures to try and save some money. Innocent until proven guilty but I would bet money on this owner and his business going bye bye. RIP PV

  • 4thGenWestSide September 26, 2013 (7:26 pm)

    Lalo and Carmen are very caring, generous & welcoming members of West Seattle. They have done a lot here and have worked hard. If a mistake was made, it happened. It does not define a person.
    I’m not a conventionally religious person, but isn’t there something in the Bible about “let you who is without sin cast the first stone” or something to that effect? I choose to base my impression of people by the whole of their actions, not by a few bad decisions.
    I’ve seen their family do way more good for our community than many. It would sure be refreshing to see people rally behind one of our own instead of jumping on the lynch mob wagon.

    Just a thought.

  • Pam September 26, 2013 (7:47 pm)

    I can’t imagine Lalo doing this. My thoughts to him and his family as they deal with this situation, no matter guilty or innocent.

  • Shontel September 26, 2013 (7:55 pm)

    Lalo has done many good things for many people. The day my oldest daughter was born Lalo and Camerina were the first there and had has been there ever since they are good people. When my mom past Lalo helped me with all the food, she past suddenly and I wasn’t prepaired for it. They have been good to me and my daughters so I will believe what I want about them.

  • A&M September 26, 2013 (8:19 pm)

    Like so many others, my wife and I both love their food but stopped eating there about 5 years ago after learning about the horrible conditions he let one of the rental properties he owns fall in to.

    We know Edwardo & Carmen and many times enjoyed a free dessert at their establisment.

    I know first-hand that this is true, that the condition of the exterior AND interior of the apts at one specific location on 48th just north of Admiral is deplorable, and the shoddy, borderline dangerous repair work he had done in one of the bathrooms is would never pass an inspection.

    That property is now the eye-sore of a really nice neighborhood.

    After realizing the condition of that rental property we had to wonder what’s going on behind-the-scenes at the restaurant and have never stepped foot in there since.

    In fact, a few years later I won a $50 gift certificate they had provided to a local charity and gave it back to the charity to use to raise more funds.

  • Lee September 26, 2013 (8:37 pm)

    Before anyone judges this man for trying to stay in business. I really think everyone needs to look at the “Big Picture”.

    Washington State put these over priced “Sin Taxes” on every bottle of alcohol, pack of smokes, candy bars quite a few years ago. I cannot imagine the impact that has has on the “Bar businesses” Not every state hes the same taxes, so I am really having a hard time looking at this guy that is slinging burritos as a big time criminal! He is trying to make a buck! He would not be searching for cheaper booze if we did not live in a state that has such high per item taxes! The true criminals get away with everything as every county in our state does nothing but cut back on Law Enforcement, leaving our small police squads spread too thin an at great risk as there is no back up!! You guys sound like a lynch mob!! Give small businesses a BREAK! There is no system in this state that is perfect, take one good look at the many people I know on DSHS help that use tobacco, alcohol and drugs. These people have been on the “States Payroll” shall we say for their entire lives. I have worked for 39 years, paid into every system there is, but now that I am un employed and have no health coverage the only way the state would help me is if I were pregnant(not possible), a diabetic, or if I had cancer. But I see these people that are getting that help in line at the grocery store buying the most expensive cuts of meats there are. Then they head down to places where they can sell that meat at half the price! Or the one I know that fakes pain to get pain pills to sell on their DSHS. So this guy bought some booze, did he steal it? Is it proven to be stolen? These people abusing the system are intentionally taking advantage of a system for a lifetime. I really think it is pitiful that the people of such a small community are ready to burn this guy at the stake for one mistake! I do not know these people, but hearsay is a hurtful thing, the damage is done by misinformation. I have to drive to another state to be able to afford to drink , smoke or enjoy some pop and candy! Everyone is on tough times since 9/11 nothing has been the same, give these people a break, I hope someone buys this man a drink when he gets out!!

  • shontel September 26, 2013 (8:46 pm)

    Your talking about apartments and not what’s happening to him with the restaurant. Do you know how many times he has given people work that come into the restaurant that need to work to help fix things with the restaurant and the places he rents out and in doing so they end up doing really bad work for him and then he is stuck with what they have done and unable to pay someone else to fix their work. I have seen this man do so much for so many people and has been screwed by them an the work they did.

  • Bsmomma September 26, 2013 (8:59 pm)

    Good people do immoral things and make bad decisions. I am not convicting him of anything but I would guess KCSO had good reason to be there. I feel for everyone the situation is effecting. If he’s innocent or guilty I’m confident it will all get sorted out.

  • Mike "diablo" September 26, 2013 (9:19 pm)

    lolo andhis family are all great people and do a ton for the west seattle community as well as provide a great place to eat and enjoy good times!!!! It never ceases to amaze me how much little people hide behind the comfort of a nameless blog. If the apartment building is an eye soar than buy it…. Oh yeah you probably don’t have enough money to do so. But a guy who works 7 days a week providing for not only his family but also provides employment opportunities for others by taking a risk to open a small business and being successful must be a pos, shame on you and get a life!!!!

  • bswans11 September 26, 2013 (10:07 pm)

    Hey all, whatever your personal thoughts are about the owner, try to put that aside for a minute. I may be wrong but, I believe the charges are for purchasing alcohol from the a$$hats that steal it off trucks (mob like) or straight from stores like Safeway or the independent liquor stores. I could give a crap about what thoughts you have about Big Business and “stealing from Safeway, QFC, etc. is justified”. No, it’s not, that’s asnine. Many of us struggle through bills, mortgage, etc. Most of us don’t go rob a bank. It’s not different. My cost of a bottle at Safeway costs more because of chitbags stealing liquor. I’ve watched kids running out a couple times, too late to do anything. Ripping off stores makes everything cost more for all of us hard working people. I will pretend that “maybe he didn’t know the booze was stolen” but, common sense (obviously not so common), says that you OWN a restaurant, you KNOW the cost of booze, when it comes to you at 50% lower cost than your regular distributor, you KNOW what the deal is. My long winded $.02.

  • Steve September 26, 2013 (11:29 pm)

    Our thoughts tonight are with Lalo, Carmen and their extended family. This is truly a tragedy that affects so many others as well…his employees will be hit hard if the restaurant is closed for any length of time. The Morales’s are kind, caring people…those of you that know them know this to be true. Those of you that don’t know them, don’t be in a rush to judgment.

  • jess September 26, 2013 (11:48 pm)

    How do we know that the person who “snitched” is reputable? Maybe a competing restaurant owner? Just remember before you steal alcohol you are on camera and can be prosecuted Don’t be stupid people It is not worth throwing away your freedom for a drink smh

  • Ms Pam September 27, 2013 (12:00 am)

    They have some really fine long time workers at this restaurant. It would be a real shame to lose this business in the junction. Best scenario would be that the owner stands up for his mistakes, learns from them & then can get back to business. On a side note, the local stores need to do a better job of keeping their liquor under better control than they are now! Come on, have workers specifically there to keep tighter controls on the product. Aint so tuff to figure that one out! Good luck to Puerta Villarta!! (Love that Renee the night bartender!!).

  • morales September 27, 2013 (1:10 am)

    Please stop talking bad about my family if you guys don’t know anything and thanks for all the support I will let dad know…. thank you…

  • White Lalo September 27, 2013 (8:17 am)

    Since so many people that do not know Lalo are chirping in, I thought I might throw in my two cents as well. Lalo has become a friend of mine over the years and I know him as a caring, generous small business man. He supports the local community in many ways and has helped out many a person when they have been down on their luck. I wish him the best of luck. P.S. My name (below) is a nickname that Lalo gave me.

  • let them swim September 27, 2013 (8:18 am)

    Makes me wonder if the break-ins, to the PV, this last year has a connection????

  • 2 Much Whine September 27, 2013 (8:29 am)

    Don’t blame the state for charging too much – the high cost of liquor affects each and every restaurant and bar in the state and there are plenty that don’t resort to buying stolen booze. Don’t blame the government because they are upset that they didn’t get their cut. Don’t blame the police for enforcing the laws that we, as a community, established. Don’t blame the grocery stores for not hiring extra people to prevent theft. Don’t blame the “snitch” that ratted someone out – it could be an undercover officer or a person with ethics that wants to right an injustice. Don’t blame the losers stealing booze to feed their vices. Don’t blame the workers that did a crappy job on an apartment building. If the allegations are true there is only one person that should accept blame for buying and selling stolen liquor and that’s the person that bought and sold stolen liquor. Let’s hope the allegations are not true and that this business and family will be vindicated. These responses are a symptom of a society that refuses to be accountable.

  • A&M September 27, 2013 (9:43 am)

    Lee and Mike “Diablo”, and any others who may poo-poo my earlier comment regarding Eduardo and his family~

    I offered my personal perspective of Eduardo to add some contrast to all the praise he is receiving (not un-deserved by any means) and to give those who know AND don’t know the man and the family some additional insight to his business sense.

    We (my wife & I) have been the recipients of their generosity on several occasions: free desserts in their restaurant as I mentioned earlier as well as turkey’s during the Holidays.

    However what he is doing/letting happen at this one rental property I am very familiar with is an atrocity, leaning towards slum-lord. He knows full-well of the very unhealthy/unsanitary conditions of one of the (very long-term) tenants and does nothing to stop it. It is a problem that not only effects the health of that tenant but also those live in the other apts in the building.

    To add, the very-seldom maintenance of the landscaping ALL around the building is accelerating the aging of the building, inviting vermin to live in its undergrowth thus making for a more unhealthy environment in the neighborhood. This eye-sore effects the property values of all the other rental properties on the street, making those owners victims of his (non)actions.

    Those times he has ‘helped’ by hiring/employing on a temporary basis AND paying them under the table (which I know for a fact he has done on a few occasions) has cheated his community (us) out of tax money we so badly need, which also applies to the illegal alcohol he is accused of buying, should those charges stand-up. With the needed repairs of this property he HAD the opportunity to hire those who do a correct & thorough job and would pay the taxes on the money they earned from it, instead two apts in particular were left with substandard work and in one case a potentially dangerous situation.

    If the booze was to be purchased from a legitimate source, taxes would be paid on it, the employees of that/those companies would realize more work/income and MORE taxes would be paid. And I believe , but don’t know for a fact that he has other rental properties as well, and if so, I would imagine they are experiencing some of the same situations as the one in the Admiral district.

    I, like I’m sure so many of the readers/contributors here have a few skeletons in our closet, there is no denying that fact. And I, like a vast majority of those here WISH we had the money to buy that rental property and clean it up (as recommended by an earlier post) but you were correct, I don’t have that kind of money. Do you? If so, step right up and help!!!

    My intentions are not to slam Eduardo, Carmen of their children, I know for a fact how good citizens they can be and usually are, rather to let the public know that not all he does is beneficial.

    I feel for his situation, for Carmen and the kids having to spend even one night without him in their home, no good can be found in any of this. I sincerely wish him and them the best, I hope they don’t have to close the restaurant causing good/hard working people their so-badly needed income.

    My hope is that airing this little part of his life will result in the betterment of that property and those who call it home, with the exception of a few who I know well, I have not publicly spoken out about this until yesterday, and you know what, it actually feels bad and good at the same time.

    Best of luck to the Morales’, best of luck to you and God help us all.

  • w.s. maverick September 27, 2013 (10:43 am)

    what can we do as a community to keep these kinds of crimes out of west seattle

  • ANS September 27, 2013 (10:57 am)

    That’s right. I agree with what is being said about the way things are run in this state that relate to this incident. I wonder how we’re still functioning at times. BUT in the end it comes down to taking responsibilty for our own actions. You can’t participate in stealing regardless of hard times, even if you do a lot of good and things aren’t “fair”. Btw, you are innocent until proven guilty. That’s why if there is enough evidence for a warrant, you are arrested and questioned, or held in jail before being convicted and sent off to prison. He is not guilty yet. The insensitivety to the character of the family needs to stop.

    That being said, I very much hope that the owner is indeed not guilty. I do find it hard to believe you aren’t aware of why your prices are so low. But that’s not our place to accuse at this point. If he has done wrong I hope dues can be paid and he is still able to run his business. The family and employees are good people, in a tough posistion. They are indeed assets to the community, and their restaurant is a staple in the Junction. It is my family’s favorite restaurant. I know the staff, the owner, and feel like I grew up there. I know many others that feel the same. We are all hoping for the best, and sending well wishes to the families if those affected.

  • Cait September 27, 2013 (11:02 am)

    I absolutely love everyone at PV and I hope they are open again soon.

  • NVJV September 27, 2013 (11:09 am)

    @2 Much Wine, you are absolutely right.

    It would be a great loss to the community if Lalo and the Morales family are not able to continue with the restaurant due to this incident, regardless of guilt or innocence.

    @Morales – please know that many of us in the community are ready to show our support for your dad, your family and PV in any way possible. As soon as those doors open, we’ll buy as many fajitas as you need us to. We’ll let everyone know of you father’s generosity and community involvement throughout the years. Whatever you may need. Your customers miss you already.

  • alkiamz September 27, 2013 (12:14 pm)

    @Morales – I hope you know how many of us in the community love you and your family we are here for you please let us know what we can do to help you- stay strong

  • tony206 September 27, 2013 (2:29 pm)

    I was really hoping to get a big margarita tonight. I hope they figure this thing out.

    • WSB September 27, 2013 (2:32 pm)

      A bail hearing was scheduled to be happening right about now – but I just got word from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that this case is no longer on the 2:30 pm calendar.

      • WSB September 27, 2013 (2:53 pm)

        Update: Prosecuting Attorney’s Office says the person arrested is being released without a hearing, and “a charging decision will be made at a later date.” – TR

  • w.s. maverick September 27, 2013 (2:32 pm)

    sometimes great people make mistakes to get ahead

  • alki forever September 27, 2013 (3:36 pm)

    Other Junction bar establishments have kicked a man out for trying to sell stolen liquor to customers inside this past summer. It’s not a new problem.

  • ruby September 27, 2013 (4:47 pm)

    So are we all gonna get our fajitas & margaritas this weekend!?

  • Joe Someone September 27, 2013 (5:02 pm)

    Regardless of who they are and all the great things they may have done in the past. Truth of the matter is that if they were willingly buying stolen alcohol, they were breaking the law and should be prosecuted.
    I don’t think this is personal, law enforcement simply has to do their job.

  • McGruff September 27, 2013 (8:00 pm)

    I guess for me the big question is if he knew he was buying hot hooch? If so, I have no sympathy for the ‘restauranting is a tough biz’ argument. Lots of restaurateurs play by the rules, and what about the businesses that got jacked? This is not a victimless crime. If there was no demand for hot booze, punks wouldn’t steal it. It’s a pity, ‘coz while I don’t go to this restaurant, it’s clearly popular. But at the end of the day, a crook is a crook. Investigate this and may the guilty pay the consequences.

  • intheknow September 27, 2013 (9:25 pm)

    Puerto Vallarta is open tomorrow, I hear. Business as usual. I’m excited to get my taco and margaritas. Are you?

  • steven zigich September 28, 2013 (11:31 am)

    LALO there is a Bunch of us who are going to support you and the P-V GOOD LUCK TO YOU.

  • evergreen September 28, 2013 (11:37 am)

    Maybe he is financially struggling. I forgive him, sounds like an overall good guy despite this crime. Hopefully he gets a fresh start.

  • NotMe September 28, 2013 (12:57 pm)

    It astounds me that people believe if the owner actually knew he was buying stolen liquor, that it is the fault of the police, ATF, LCB, and the State of Washington. There is no way an owner doesn’t know he/she is buying stolen liquor, beer or wine.
    Just because he fed people, said “hello” to you while you ate fajitas in his joint, or otherwise did nice things, he should be allowed a free pass. Yeah, sure. You go “support” him. I bet these are the same commenters that complain the police aren’t getting the “bad guys” for breaking and entering a home, rob a bank, kill someone, etc. A crime is a crime, and I seriously believe the ATF and Sheriff’s Dept didn’t go in half-hazard to ruin this business. I don’t care if he is a nice guy – if he is guilty, he is no better than any other criminal and shouldn’t be denied his punishment. The sad part of all this is the staff that had nothing to do with this – they are the real victims. The other victims are the parents whose kids go to the very schools that the taxes he SHOULD have paid on legal sales of liquor, and any other local funded agency from those taxes.

  • Mel September 28, 2013 (1:56 pm)

    LOVE the “it’s the government’s fault” rants – these same people voted to take liquor sales OUT of the govt’s hands, and now prices are higher! Yet the state still gets the blame. Laughable.
    As for the guilt of the proprietor, let’s hope he’s not guilty. My utterly uneducated guess is he may have bought something at some time from someone, BUT the County isn’t after the Puerto Vallarta – they want the guys stealing/fencing the booze.

  • Robert September 28, 2013 (6:49 pm)


  • Karen sisson September 28, 2013 (7:55 pm)

    Edwardo is a wonderful person, period.

  • Lee September 29, 2013 (7:09 pm)

    The brutal taxes started to happen years before the State was taken out of the liquor business. Does it justify a crime, no, but it is more tolerable to swallow! He is not a molester, just a guy trying to make it in small business! If he did wrong, pay a fine and be done with it!!! I am not blaming anyone, but the situation is understandable. We do not know the circumstances behind their situation. He could have been told all kinds of things, like the booze was from a former restaurant that closed, we do not know! So I hope people quit judging before all information is out. If there was a wrong, I hope it in the form of a minimal fine, as we need small local businesses to Survive! Best of Luck to all involved!! I too feel bad for those that lost days of work, the money PV lost during their closure should be a big enough fine!

  • Michael September 30, 2013 (11:46 pm)

    Thank You Karen!
    Do those of you that are already convicting Lalo not remember that there is a constitution in this country. Lalo is innocent until proven guilty!! Would you want people jumping to conclusions if this were you?
    I have know Lalo as a customer and a friend for 13 years. He are Carmen are truly caring people. The have done a lot for the West Seattle community, The junction and many individuals as well. My thoughts are with them at this time.

  • cruzer October 1, 2013 (9:33 am)

    Stop sugarcoating what he did! Breaking state law is no “mistake” — its a CRIME! Regardless of how charming this guy might be, every restaurant owner in this state knows illegal liquor is ILLEGAL! What he did is no better than buying crack because it feeds money to organized crime which affects us all!

  • RT October 9, 2013 (11:00 am)

    This has been a long standing sting. Safeway, QFC, and local law enforcement have been onto the owner’s operations for quite some time. I realize that you can’t take everything in this article for judicial truth; but I am willing to believe the party reporting without bias and can provide facts than I will with a group of people who think the owner is/was a good business man. Just because you do a few good things in the community doesn’t exonerate an individual from the same laws that you or I must abide by.

    Puerta Vallarta rarely saw any business from me since the firing of their hardest working and most loyal employee. Puerta Vallarta has been deported from my list of go-to W. Seattle venues.


  • jane October 12, 2013 (4:31 pm)

    I am so sorry to hear that Lalo is in this mess. He used to be my landlord and he and his wife are wonderful people. I hope this all works out.

  • pepe October 14, 2013 (4:16 pm)

    If it had to happen I can only thank them for waiting for my daughters’ summertime birthday dinners to be right behind, leaving everybody some time to be ready for the next ones.
    I always appreciate PV’s complimentary dessert and singing for the events, find my daughters incredibly cute with the fancy hat on their head and I will miss the family friendly ambiance; so…hang in there!
    Now waiting for the storm to pass away I shall listen to my mom’s favorite singer, the great Luis:

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