Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Milwaukee Licenses Committee Denied Liquor License For Jes Apna Restaurant and Bar Over Pending FBI Bribery Probe

James "Jim"  N. Witkowiak and Inderjeet S. Dhillon

Witkowiak confirmed that the FBI has an ongoing bribery probe against the owner or agent for "Jes Apna Restaurant, Inc. and Jes Apna Restaurant and Bar."

By H. Nelson Goodson
January 22, 2013

Milwaukee,  WI - On Tuesday, the City of Milwaukee Licenses Committee unanimously denied a request to grant a Class B Tavern License and Food Dealer License for "Jes Apna Restaurant, Inc. and Jes Apna Restaurant and Bar" at 551 W. Becher St. The denial of the liquor license came after a surprising statement by former 12th District Alderman James N. Witkowiak that Inderjeet S. Dhillon, the owner or agent for both "Jes Apna Restaurant, Inc. and Jes Apna Restaurant and Bar" had attempted to bribe Witkowiak on January 27, 2011 for $2,500 to help him get the liquor license.
Witkowiak stated that he met Dhillon at the Royal India Restaurant at the 3400 block of S. 27 Street on January 2011 and while at the restaurant, Dhillon made multiple attempts to give an envelope to Witkowiak. Witkowiak repeatedly refused to take a sealed business envelope from Dhillon who placed the envelope on Witkowiak's coat pocket.
After leaving the restaurant, Witkowiak immediately reported the bribery attempt incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Three FBI agents then met Witkowiak at his business and they opened the sealed envelope, which contained $2,500 in cash. The FBI instructed Witkowiak to call Dhillon while attaching audio recording equipment on his phone.
Witkowiak called Dhillon and asked him, "What was the purpose of the Money? Dhillon replied,  So you will help me get my liquor license for my store on 6th and Becher." The conversation was recorded by the FBI, which has an ongoing probe into attempted bribery allegations of a public official.
Dhillon has a laundromat business at the 551 W. Becher St. location that was being converted into a restaurant and bar pending the liquor license.
Witkowiak told the Licensing Committee that the FBI was aware of his intent to provide the information about the bribery attempt to the committee.
After Witkowiak's testimony, the committee recessed at 12:12 p.m. and when it reconvened at 12:23 p.m. Attorney David Carr who represented Dhillon at the hearing unexpectedly redrew and left the hearing. Also, former Alderman Marvin Pratt and Juan Carlos Ruiz, a community organizer who supported Dhillon's request for a liquor license left the meeting and abandoned Dhillon. The Licenses Committee voted 4-0 to deny Dhillon a liquor license based on neighborhood testimony,  according to the preliminary minutes of the meeting.
Dhillon's business is located on Alderman T. Anthony Zielinski's district, which was just across from former Witkowiak's Aldermanic 12th District. Witkowiak was opposing a liquor license request by Dhillon.
Dhillon apparently held a joint fundraising event for both Alderman Zielinski and Aldermanic candidate for the 12th District José Pérez before the April election. Pérez defeated Witkowiak in the election last year.
Aldermen Zielinski and Pérez are current members of the City of Milwaukee Licenses Committee. Zielinski Chairs the committee. 
The FBI's Dhillon bribery probe is ongoing and is investigating whether other public elected officials are involved in the Dhillon bribery investigation. The FBI or the U.S. Attorney's Office in Milwaukee has not indicted anyone yet in the case, including Dhillon.

Alleged bribery statement by former Alderman James Witkowiak: Interjeet Dhillon's liquor license hearing at Milwaukee Licenses Committee dated 1/22/2012 video link at http://is.gd/V5P4Hi

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