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Manager at La Casita Mexicana Suspected of Embezzling More Than $300,000 Over 12 Years

"When you own a restaurant, it's easy to lose yourself in perfecting a new dish or making sure a recipe is done correctly every single day, but this taught us that you have to be just as meticulous, if not more, about the administrative side as well," Jaime Martin Del Campo, co-owner of La Casita Mexicana tells L.A. TACO. "He was like family to us."

12:35 PM PDT on March 21, 2024

    Chefs Jaime y Ramiro

    Jorge A. Bejarano, the former manager of one of L.A.'s most beloved Mexican restaurants, La Casita Mexicana in the City of Bell, was arrested last week. Bejarano is now facing 17 charges, ranging from the identity thefts of 16 people to the alleged embezzling of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    "It was a lesson learned the hard way on how just one employee can almost break an entire business," Martin del Campo tells L.A. TACO over the phone.

    The restaurant just celebrated its 25th year of business in southeast Los Angeles. It was one of the first Mexican restaurants in the country to offer regional Mexican dishes, including chilaquiles divorciados for brunch, Jalisco-style beef shanks in adobo for lunch, fish roasted in corn husks for dinner, and caramel-stuffed churros for dessert.

    La Casita Mexicana
    La Casita Mexicana. Photo via Google Street View.

    Del Campo tells L.A. TACO that he and Ramiro Arvizu, his business partner and the restaurant's co-owner, found out about the theft after they congratulated one of their employees for starting a bank account and getting direct deposit.

    The employee then revealed that he had no bank account.

    Del Campo believes Bejarano stole Arvizu's password and was cutting himself a check every time another employee at the restaurant was paid.

    "He was very sneaky about it, doing most of it in the middle of the night and making it look as if nothing happened the following morning," he says. "It shocked us because he was like family to us."

    Bejerano left his position in La Casita Mexicana in November 2021 to open his own Mexican restaurant in Van Nuys, named Xochipilli Taco Bar. However, Del Campo strongly believes he kept embezzling money until the following year, even after he was no longer employed at La Casita Mexicana.

    "When you own a restaurant, it's easy to lose yourself in perfecting a new dish or making sure a recipe is done correctly every single day, but this taught us that you have to be just as meticulous, if not more, about the administrative side as well," Del Campo says.

    Bejarano is also believed to have embezzled money at Del Campo and Arvizu's now-closed Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza restaurant, Mexicano. The final amount has yet to be investigated, but both Arvizu and Del Campo suspect it is well north of $300,000 considering the theft went on for so long.

    The City of Bell Police Department released a statement on March 14th, 2024, announcing Bejarano's arrest:

    "The City of Bell Police Department announces the successful culmination of a yearlong investigation into a grand theft and identity theft crime perpetrated against La Casita Mexicana restaurant. The investigation focused on a former employee entrusted with payroll responsibilities who allegedly embezzled thousands of dollars using the identities of current and former employees."

    The case has been submitted to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office for filing considerations. "The legal fees for this have been crazy, but we pursued it and are publicizing this because we want our fellow hospitality community to be extra careful with whom they trust, especially those who you think have your back," says Del Campo.

    Univision has also covered this case.

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