Followup: Puerto Vallarta owner, 4 others charged with stolen-liquor trafficking

(WSB photo, September 26, taken while law enforcers were searching Puerto Vallarta)
Six weeks after the arrest of Eduardo Morales-Cardenas, owner of Puerto Vallarta in The Junction, for allegedly buying stolen liquor, he is now charged with two felonies. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed charges against Morales-Cardenas and four others this afternoon; he is charged with trafficking in stolen property and attempted trafficking in stolen property. Prosecutors are asking that bail for Cardenas-Morales be set at half a million dollars, though he has no criminal history. He is scheduled to answer the charges in King County Superior Court two weeks from today. We just received the charging documents and are reviewing them now .

ADDED: Charged along with Morales-Cardenas are Amber Vincent, Shaye Glenn-Nitschke, Eric Olson, and Michael Jensen. Jensen, Olson, Glenn-Nitschke and Vincent are charged with 2nd-degree organized retail theft, with the victim named as QFC; Jensen, Olson, and Vincent face a second version of that charge, with the victim named as Safeway; Jensen and Olson face a third version of that charge, this time against Costco. The charges against Morales-Cardenas mention Safeway and QFC. Here’s what the charging documents say happened:

The charging papers say the investigation has been under way since March: “This investigation has revealed that Eduardo Morales-Cardenas has knowingly been buying stolen alcohol from the above-named defendants, and that (he) has resold some of this alcohol to others and has transported some of this alcohol to restaurants he owns and operates in Seattle. This investigation has revealed that over $15,000 of alcohol has been stolen by this criminal enterprise from grocery stores throughout King County and elsewhere.”

In April, the documents say, King County Superior Court Judge Richard Eadie authorized GPS tracking for Jensen’s personal vehicle, which over the ensuing four weeks “traveled to various grocery stores on over forty occasions. Another location that Jensen visited on a number of occasions was (a Junction house owned by Morales-Cardenas). Through live and video surveillance conducted by … detectives, we observed Jensen frequently carrying heavy bags into a detached garage at this address.” The documents say “video and/or live surveillance” of Morales-Cardenas was conducted as well, and that he and a pickup truck registered to him were observed involved in the transfer of seemingly heavy grocery bags from Jensen’s vehicle at 1st/Spokane late the night of May 7th, a day when the tracker showed Jensen’s vehicle at grocery stores on the Eastside, during which he was caught on surveillance camera in four shoplifting incidents involving 24 bottles of liquor.

The charging documents then jump to August 28th, when “a detective operating in an undercover capacity made contact with Morales-Cardenas at the detached garage at” his home on 42nd SW. “Posing as an alcohol thief, the undercover detective sold Morales-Cardenas eight bottles of alcohol valued at $367.92. Morales-Cardenas paid the undercover detective $140 in cash. Morales-Cardenas told the undercover detective he was surprised the detective could get Crown Royal, ‘since it is locked up at most places.'”

The court documents go on to mention an April 25th incident in which Jensen, Olson, Glenn-Nitschke, and Vincent allegedly stole $1,209 worth of liquor from a QFC store in Issaquah, adding: “Each of these suspects was recognized by store personnel from organized retail crime-alert postings on the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance website.” An April 27th theft of 30 bottles worth $931, from a Kirkland Safeway, allegedly by Jensen, Vincent, and Olson, is mentioned, as is a May 12th $639 theft, also from a Kirkland Safeway and allegedly involving Jensen and Vincent, and a June 16th $1,582 theft at an Everett Costco, allegedly involving Jensen and Olson.

After the May 12th incident, the documents say, Jensen and Vincent were arrested, and “told officers that they sell the stolen liquor and other items to Morales-Cardenas. They both identified (him) as the owner of the Puerto Vallarta store in West Seattle. Vincent admitted to stealing liquor on numerous occasions with Jensen, stating that Jensen then sold the liquor to Morales-Cardenas. Vincent said that after a while she began selling stolen liquor directly to Morales-Cardenas. She had in her possession at the time of arrest one of Morales-Cardenas’ business cards, which has (his) cell number hand-written on it. Also written on this card is a list of items that Vincent says Morales-Cardenas wanted to buy from her.”

When officers searched the restaurant on the day Morales-Cardenas was arrested – September 26th – they found in his desk at the restaurant “a letter from Jensen warning (him) about the investigation” along with a copy of the business card, which investigators noted was obtained by Jensen along with a copy of the May 12th police-incident report.

The charging documents say that on the day he was arrested, “Morales-Cardenas admitted to buying liquor from Jensen and others. He stated he knew the liquor was stolen. He denied using this liquor in the operation of his restaurants, but admitted that he delivered the stolen alcohol to other people. Morales-Cardenas also said that at times (he used) money provided by a friend of his who owns a restaurant and that his friend would pick up the liquor later.”

ADDED 5:57 PM: The charging documents say that after an arrest in early October, Olson told investigators “he stopped stealing alcohol in the summer of 2013, but continued to steal food products such as meat and shrimp and continued to sell those items to Morales-Cardenas. Olson stated he often brought stolen goods to the Puerto Vallarta Restaurant.” Jensen is reported to have told authorities after a May 28th arrest that “there were restaurants in Seattle that were paying him ten dollars per bottle for stolen liquor. He specifically identified Morales-Cardenas as owner of the Puerto Vallarta Restaurant in West Seattle and as someone who bought stolen liquor from him. Jensen’s telephone calls from the King County Jail to Morales-Cardenas confirm their relationship, and indicate that Morales-Cardenas agreed to bail for Jensen on that occasion.”

According to our checks of the King County Jail Register a short time ago:

*Morales-Cardenas is not in custody

*Jensen, 41, has been in jail since August 12th, on a variety of charges and now in connection with this case, for which his bail is listed as $500,000. Prosecutors say 84 warrants for his arrest have been issued since 1993, and that his convictions include burglary, theft, drugs, and escape.

*Olson, 51, has been in jail since last Wednesday, on two warrants plus this case, for which his bail is listed as $500,000. Prosecutors say he is a convicted sex offender, robber, forger, and ID thief.

*Glenn-Nitschke, 24, has been in jail since September 26th, related to other cases as well as now on this charge, for which his bail is listed as $250,000.

*Vincent, 22, was jailed September 26th but released the next day, according to the jail register. She has no felony record, according to prosecution documents, but bail is requested at $100,000 because of factors including a record of misdemeanor thefts.

We are continuing to check court (and other) records beyond the charging documents obtained late today, and will update the story with any more information we find.

ADDED 7:15 PM: Before charges were filed, there was a hearing two weeks ago regarding the alcohol seized during searches the day Morales-Cardenas was arrested. The court documents include this 30-page list of what was seized. Documents we downloaded indicate he appeared in court at that hearing and there was no final decision, but instead this notation: “The Court will take testimony and evidence in this matter, but will reserve entering a judgment until (Morales-Cardenas’s lawyer) has time to present legal briefing on the right to segregate the seized alcohol and potentially return legally purchased alcohol to Mr. Morales.”

67 Replies to "Followup: Puerto Vallarta owner, 4 others charged with stolen-liquor trafficking"

  • B November 4, 2013 (5:03 pm)

    Sooo….the crazy dangerous sexual predator gets $100k bond, yet the guy who’s “trafficking” in stolen booze gets half a million bond?

  • heather November 4, 2013 (5:08 pm)

    I don’t get it. Stanleys bail is $100k (attempted physical assault) yet Cardenas-Morales bail is $500k (attempted property trafficking). Are bails set based on potential ability to ‘make bail’?

  • wscommuter November 4, 2013 (5:24 pm)

    Heather and B, you’re right … you don’t get it. Please read both stories closely. In the indecent exposure case, the CITY ATTORNEY in MUNICIPAL COURT sought $100K in bail for a MISDEMANOR hold.

    In this case, the KING COUNTY PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE in KING COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT is requesting – requesting – $500K bail for a FELONY charge. However, no judge has actually set any bail at all yet. I expect it won’t actually be set that high – property crimes don’t get that kind of bail setting unless there are exceptionally unusual circumstances.

    If and when KCPO can/does charge the exposure guy, rest assured they’ll ask for big bail (and likely get it then).

    Take a deep breath. Relax.

  • Mexican Food November 4, 2013 (5:24 pm)

    Thank you, Junction Business Owner. Thank you for being a thug role model.

  • Norma November 4, 2013 (5:27 pm)

    I agree the imbalance seems odd but I think they got what they deserved. I’m sure they took more than we know about and we all pay for it. I’m sorry that one of my favorite restaurants was involved in this. It sort of stinks!

  • no November 4, 2013 (5:35 pm)

    I heard restaurants in the junction wanted to get his business closed so they could make more money.
    That bail amount is nuts. People rob our houses and flash kids and get out for nothing. WTF.

  • payrollgirl November 4, 2013 (5:37 pm)

    Such high bail on trafficking in stolen booze maybe because the Dept of Revenue lost money and on a sexual predator they don’t???

  • Cindi November 4, 2013 (5:42 pm)

    Is this restaurant still in business or has it been shut down?

  • SKB November 4, 2013 (6:07 pm)

    Wow, this is so surprising & disappointing. Feel terrible for his family & employees. Lalo is well liked by many, but even good people make bad choices.

    Don’t know what comment by “no” means – do you really think other businesses set this whole thing up to drive him out? Ridiculous!

  • Chris November 4, 2013 (6:09 pm)

    Does this mean the price of drinks at Peurto Vallarta are going up?

    • WSB November 4, 2013 (6:17 pm)

      Regarding bail: The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office document requesting the half-million bail says, “Although Morales-Cardenas does not have a prior criminal history, he has been the head of an active theft ring that has been stealing and reselling high-end liquor from stores throughout Western Washington. The high bond has been requested because Morales-Cardenas owns several restaurants in the area and is believed to be very affluent.” The same amount of bail was requested for Jensen and Olson, with both described as having “extensive criminal histories” (will be adding that part to the story as well as information on some of the alleged stolen liquor, which was detailed for a separate, recent hearing before charges were filed).

  • heather November 4, 2013 (6:13 pm)

    Ah. Thanks Wscommuter, no I didn’t catch Municipal/misdemeanor vs Superior/felony; hence, the bail discrepancy.

  • Steve November 4, 2013 (6:29 pm)

    Our hearts go out to Carmen and the rest of the family…this is devastating for her and the kids. :-(

  • no November 4, 2013 (6:44 pm)

    Skb who knows but maybe some other restaurants were offered booze and told them thieves to sell it to PV or reported something. Innocent until proven guilty. Do the crime do the time of course.

  • Alki Resident November 4, 2013 (6:49 pm)

    Can we get pics of all of these people named above?

  • vincent November 4, 2013 (6:58 pm)

    Whats amazing is they could go through all that effort just to get cheap booze for the back bar drinking professionals, and the best they could muster in the front was high school cafeteria style Mexican food.

    Max sentence for class B felony is 10years +20k fine, since he has no priors, and can afford a lawyer, I would guess probation and max fine. It was probably still worth it, since the markup on 15k worth of booze they know about is around 60k and I imagine the county spent far more that on this operation the real losers are the taxpayers and patrons of this mediocre establishment.

  • transplantella November 4, 2013 (6:59 pm)

    It’s pretty clear that the law enforcement/criminal justice system is more interested punishing theft of government revenues than protecting the public from dangerous predators.


    Government acting in its own self interest, not yours.

  • au November 4, 2013 (7:11 pm)

    what are you saying transplantella? That QFC, Safeway and Costco are government entities?

  • steve November 4, 2013 (7:11 pm)

    yes transplANTELLA, the goverment loves moneys and hates protecting the public from…. who?

    transwhatever has an axe to grind

  • weekender November 4, 2013 (7:22 pm)

    Just glad I stopped going to this plate-o-goo dive years ago.

  • Go November 4, 2013 (7:23 pm)

    What others restaurants does he own?

  • G November 4, 2013 (7:42 pm)

    There is a lot of stolen booze out there. I’ve been proffered booze on the C line more than a few times. Other than that, I don’t even know what to say anymore.

  • M. November 4, 2013 (8:16 pm)

    Transplantella, law enforcement has many types of crime to enforce. Theft, trafficking as well as dangerous predators. One is not in lieu of another.

    I think stopping those who steal, those who knowingly support it and traffic the stolen property, is acting in the Public’s interest, and I say well done to those involved in the investigation.

  • JK November 4, 2013 (8:20 pm)

    We went to the restaurant for the first and only time this past July. We both were sick within hours. The tortillas smelled like old grease, the service was slow and barely personable, and the restrooms had standing water in them. Since then our running joke when we walk by is, “No, I don’t see Gordon Ramsey yet!”

    This was a restaurant that, at least recently, the staff quit caring about. Hopefully this will cause a turnover and the Junction will get a new restaurant with owners that care about their craft.

  • Nwmama November 4, 2013 (8:30 pm)

    So this guys also bought stolen meat and shrimp? Yuck. The junction deserves a better business than this. This doesn’t sound like one bad decision…
    Any chance Olson stole the meat from the west Seattle food bank months back? I mean, how many thieves can “specialize” in meat theft ???!

  • Cait November 4, 2013 (8:41 pm)

    I’m curious to know who Lalo is – I know the waitstaff by name, but I don’t know him.

  • JanS November 4, 2013 (9:19 pm)

    Cait, I think Lalo is a nickname for the owner

  • WS Mom November 4, 2013 (9:21 pm)

    “Lalo” is the owner of PV, aka: Eduardo Morales-Cardinas! The food has never been top notch but the service in the restaurant & bar were okay at best…All this information coming out is such a disappointment to all of us that care about West Seattle! Guess anything goes for the all mighty buck! What a shame!!!

  • transplantella November 4, 2013 (9:22 pm)

    The state of Washington has the highest liquor tax in the country.

    When things become inordinately unaffordable those things will move into more black market distribution.

  • bolo November 4, 2013 (10:20 pm)

    Does anyone know if there was as much liquor-stealing going on before it was recently made widely available in supermarkets, pharmacies, department stores, i.e. non-state-controlled liquor stores?

  • Mike November 4, 2013 (10:27 pm)

    Nice catch by the cops. Ate there once. Disappointing. No loss.

  • Seattlite November 4, 2013 (10:29 pm)

    I knew there was a good reason why I never set foot in PV. PV’s “cafeteria” food style was probably a front for its more lucrative, crooked liquor sales.

    wscommuter — Thanks for the break down…I hope the predator and PV crooks all get what they deserve.

  • Seattle g November 4, 2013 (11:32 pm)

    I have only been here twice because of friends in the 20 years we have loved in WS. Always the dirty windows were a flag to me things could b less then good. Would love to see something new! No love loss here .

  • CJ November 5, 2013 (12:23 am)

    Weren’t the penalties for stealing liquor from a state run store higher (felony?) than they currently are under privatization? If so, it seems that shift in risk vs. reward would be the most compelling argument to explain the rise in thefts since privatization.

  • Dma November 5, 2013 (12:26 am)

    Bad reputation for the puerto vallarta restaurants shame

  • MN November 5, 2013 (12:44 am)

    I do not know the family and cannot attest to any positive qualities the owner or they may have, but the restaurant is not run well, IMO. My girlfriend and I have lived in W. Seattle since 2005 and have been to PV about 5 times (the first being the week we moved in). Sadly the food and margaritas have been consistently disappointing. We drive to other districts for our Mexican food (when we want to dine in) rather than walk 5 blocks to eat there.

  • community member November 5, 2013 (6:30 am)

    The comments on this thread mystify me.
    We are talking about large-scale, well-organized, planned, intentional stealing from private businesses. High taxes on alcohol do not “cause” this.
    If the crime was, say, home-distilling, or illegal imports, you might be able to argue that tax avoidance is an impetus. But blaming this particular crime on taxes – do you blame home burglaries on people trying to avoid paying sales tax? Auto thefts are to avoid registration taxes? That’s a silly cause-and-effect view.
    And all the comments on whether the restaurant had good service, or the style of food, etc – what difference does this make? If it was a 4-star establishment it would be okay?
    I’m glad the police pursue this sort of crime, and that they do the work to put together a solid case. But I don’t understand why the stores don’t do more to reduce the thefts in the first place.

  • Robert November 5, 2013 (7:16 am)

    just shows that a good place to eat without the booze for breakfast croud is getting hard to find . we need another charleston type of eatery in west seattle with good food and without the booze and bs connected with the bar/resturants.., and oh yes keep the over-priced yuppie social climbing jackasses in bellview/readmond.area, not in west seattle…

  • White Lalo November 5, 2013 (7:21 am)

    A mistake can be made by a good man. It happens all the time. It has happened to me and probably all of you. We’re not perfect. However, if you break the law, you have to pay the penalty. Yes, it’s a shame. It is going to effect many people.
    Let’s hope that some good can come from this.

  • kgbrn November 5, 2013 (7:46 am)

    When the alcohol sales law changed, I wondered how grocery stores would monitor the shelves for theft. It seems the cost of having a locked/monitored/segregated area for alcohol would be covered by the loss to theft. Costco has its cigarettes locked up, why not the alcohol? Lock it up, control the thefts.

  • Phil dirt November 5, 2013 (7:59 am)

    The law is the law and a crook is a crook. Who knows what other crimes this guy is involved in? I’m glad the cops busted him.

  • sillygoose November 5, 2013 (8:03 am)

    The first two post are my thoughts exactly! As well as hopefully this will stop the in your face theft at some of the grocery stores. Every time I go into Jefferson Square Safeway the same two guys are in there blantley stealing liquor and they don;t care who see’s them do it! The theft is rampant and these stores need to amp up security instead of turning a blind eye, as those of us that are honest are paying for the loss!!

  • Kayleigh November 5, 2013 (8:35 am)

    We ate there once and besides the food being inedible, it really did have a skeevy feel to it. Now I know why.
    Dude knew he was breaking the law. That kinda knocks him out of the “nice guy” box.

  • Anonymous November 5, 2013 (8:42 am)

    PV was a place I would go to every once in a while when I was lazy and really hungry. The food wasn’t great, but I don’t think it was necessarily terrible. I probably would still go there if one of the employees didn’t try to steal my scarf last year.. Luckily after getting angry they suddenly managed to “find” it so I got it back. But it was a disappointing experience.

    Will PV still be open after all of this? How many PV’s are there anyways?

  • MN November 5, 2013 (9:06 am)

    @community member

    The reason it’s relevant to comment on the food/quality etc. IMO is that, if allegations are true, the owner’s focus was perhaps distracted from running a quality business. Perhaps he was more focused on his other, more shady business(es) and didn’t have his priorities straight.

  • enough November 5, 2013 (9:19 am)

    I miss the Mexican restaurant that used to be on California Ave just north of the Morgan Junction.. I think it was called Guadalajara? Never liked PV.

  • skeeter November 5, 2013 (9:20 am)

    Folks, this is not a small judgment error like speeding when late to an appointment. This is organized, pre-meditated theft with total disregard for all victims including us, the public, who absorb the financial consequences of theft through increased prices. If these allegations are true I will never step foot in that restaurant again.

  • beef November 5, 2013 (9:24 am)

    it is always worth your while to buy liquor in California.

    another reason for an income tax in this state. :)

  • skeeter November 5, 2013 (11:06 am)

    Exactly beef. That’s why I live in WA but buy my liquor in California.

  • steve November 5, 2013 (12:02 pm)

    transpllantella LOSES!

    move bakc home transplantellssdds. w seattle is betr widdout you

  • F16CrewChief November 5, 2013 (12:02 pm)


    Guadalajara is still in West Seattle .

  • AW November 5, 2013 (12:19 pm)

    Once they fired Ray, there was no reason to go to this place. Sub par food, sub par enviroment… but stiff drinks. Now we know how they could afford that.

  • Franci November 5, 2013 (12:29 pm)

    F16 – Enough is referring to a different Guadalajara – Its full name was Guadalahara Hacienda – and yes I miss it too!

    The other Guadalahara is not the same..

  • Diane November 5, 2013 (12:55 pm)

    looking at the pdf, 30 pages of evidence seized; how are they able to identify as stolen? did they just take everything and then this guy has to provide proof some/all was legally purchased?

  • Homey November 5, 2013 (2:26 pm)

    I’m going to support Puerto Vallarta and order me some dinner later this week.

  • G November 5, 2013 (2:52 pm)

    Transplantella is correct, there is a correlation between more expensive alcohol and theft, and there are a number of news stories out there that corroborate this fact; it certainly makes sense.

  • JoAnne November 5, 2013 (4:48 pm)

    Transplantella was correct. Unreasonably high taxes do encourage both a black market and theft.

    And we do need independent thinkers in West Seattle. Desperately.

  • 2 Much Whine November 5, 2013 (6:01 pm)

    I don’t get it. It was reported that “When officers searched the restaurant on the day Morales-Cardenas was arrested – September 26th – they found in his desk at the restaurant “a letter from Jensen warning (him) about the investigation” along with a copy of the business card, which investigators noted was obtained by Jensen along with a copy of the May 12th police-incident report.” So he knew the guys he was buying from had been busted but continued to have them steal on his behalf for another 4.5 months? What am I missing? Why would someone do that? Perhaps it’s that excessive shrimp and meat tax we have that drove him to buy stolen food. . . . . . oh wait.

  • community member November 6, 2013 (6:09 am)

    lol @ excessive shrimp tax drove him to buy stolen food.

  • lovemywestseattle November 6, 2013 (8:51 am)

    Thank you ‘Community Member’, well said, all of your comments I agree with.
    BTW for the food critics, there is a blog for food critics, but this is about something entirely different. Because you disagree with the food or service you’ve received has NOTHING to do with this article.
    I know this family, the owner and the employees, I’ve always looked up to Lalo(owners nickname)on many levels, for many things over the years. He is a good man and has done MANY things to help many people, I for one am here to support him wherever and however I can.

  • seaviewer November 6, 2013 (9:14 am)

    On the seemingly high bail:

    Bail in Washington serves two puposes, to protect the public safety, and to guarantee the suspect be brought to court.

    They are obviously more worried about the latter with an affluent suspect like Morales-Cardenas. He not only has money, (and if he’s buying stolen liquor he likely has a lot of cash hidden away somewhere) but likely out of country ties. The concern is that he would simply skip town, state, and country and never been heard from again.

    Besides, any complaint that the Canadian Sex Offender’s bail is too low can be countered by the simple fact that Michael Sean Stanley (AKA Michael Shawn Stanley, Michael Bigwolk, David Quintasket, Carl Youngpine) remains in custody.

  • McGruff November 6, 2013 (9:55 am)

    If the owner if PV is guilty, throw the book at him. Liquor theft is NOT a victimless crime. If there weren’t a demand for ‘hot’ booze, there wouldn’t be the thefts. If the charges are true, the owner of PV has been making money at the expense of others who work equally hard. He may come across as a ‘nice guy’, but I’m sure Al Capone had lots of friends, too.

  • Sammy November 6, 2013 (7:51 pm)

    Anybody watch Boardwalk Empire?

    This whole this is very petty in comparison to what went on during prohibition.

    It makes Seattle look like a bunch of prissy school marms.

    The police should be out there finding guys who are beating their wives and kids, and rapists. Not this kind of “trafficking”. Yeah…

  • Faceless November 7, 2013 (4:54 pm)

    Maybe we should lower the cost of liquor in this state?

  • Paul Reilly November 7, 2013 (6:35 pm)

    “beef” & “skeeter”:

    Shhhhh! Never smarten up the chumps.

    WS ex-pat

  • Adam November 20, 2013 (4:11 pm)

    I went to safeway to buy a bottle I seriously was standing in line for 5 minutes waiting for someone to ring me up i rang the bell they had there a few times i saw some young kids just leave and stole everything they had. This wouldn’t be happening if they had more workers on the floor. Stores make it easy to steal! Btw I love PV!

Sorry, comment time is over.