Former Indiana restaurant operator charged with check fraud after workers' child support payments bounced
The Louisville man was a former operator for Rails Craft Brew and Eatery Restaurant in Seymour and Clarksville.
SEYMOUR, Ind. (WDRB) -- Officers say a southern Indiana restaurant owner's debt led to bad checks, unpaid workers and kids going without child support.
The Jackson County Sheriff's office charged 58-year-old David Lawrence with corrupt business practices.
"I think there's quite a bit of deception on his part," Sheriff Michael Carothers said.
Plenty of customers piled into Lawrence's old Seymour restaurant Thursday, Rails Craft Brew and Eatery, but employee Amanda Reichenbacker said her old boss left a bad taste with his workers.
"Checks bounced, vendors, food orders ... nothing was getting paid," Reichenbacker said. "It affects you: the hard work and the long hours you put in to keep something open, to keep it going."
Lawrence spoke to WDRB in June of 2016 as he expanded the Rails brand from Seymour to Clarksville, taking over the former Sam's Club at the Montrose property. The project soon fell off the rails, closing last September with no notice and no pay for the workers, like Magenn Mangels.
"It's very stressful, as a parent, to not be able to provide for your kids because someone won't pay you," Mangels said in October.
Workers called Lawrence a recipe for disaster saying he tried to expand the Rails brand too quickly. He opened a restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida, at the end of 2017. It closed within two months, and that was just after the Clarksville location failed. Deputies said he poured the profits from the Seymour location into the new restaurant Bella Vita one block away. It never opened and he was arrested there Wednesday night.
Reichenbacker said investors in the Rails location in Seymour formed a new company and pushed Lawrence out, and when they took over the operation, they found out how badly the fiances had spiraled out of control.
Carothers said the new operator contacted investigators after discovering Lawrence had written bad checks to the state of Indiana, money that was supposed to be taken out of employees' checks for child support.
"The funds weren't there to garnish," Carothers said. "He just kept those."
Police reports say the amount totaled more than $3,000.
"We are no longer affiliated," Reichenbacker said. "We are now under new ownership."
She's telling customers Rails is getting back on track, and she has one message for customers who ask about her old boss.
"He bit off more than he could chew," Reichenbacker said.
Lawrence faces charges of check deception, check fraud, causing neglect of a dependent and corrupt business. His first court appearance is not yet scheduled.
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