Detroit – Federal agents are investigating a Justice Department employee for alleged money laundering in an unusual case involving one of America’s best dive bars, the Nancy Whiskey Pub in Corktown.
The investigation was revealed in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by bar owners Eva Reyes and Gerald Stevens. Reyes is a legal assistant in the drug task force unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit and, according to the lawsuit, the office’s only Mexican-American employee.
The couple are trying to quash a federal subpoena and block investigators from accessing their financial records.
The subpoena was issued by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General as part of an investigation into whether Reyes was involved in money laundering and lied about her ownership interest in Nancy Whiskey Pub, according to the lawsuit.
The pub’s lawyer could not be reached for comment immediately Friday. A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman declined comment.
The pub, on Harrison Street a few blocks northwest of the Tiger Stadium site, was established in 1902 and has one of Detroit’s oldest liquor licenses. The Washington Post named it one of the country’s best dive bars in April, noting that missing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was a regular who used a bar phone to conduct union business. The pub also was featured in a 2014 Long John Silver’s commercial.
The Redford couple argue the Aug. 28 administrative subpoena is not related to a legitimate investigation and violates federal law protecting citizens from unauthorized disclosure of their financial records.
The court filing indicates there was a prior investigation overseen by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan that did not result in any criminal charges against the couple.
The couple have tried to unseal search warrant affidavits related to the investigation to learn more facts. That request is pending in front of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman.
“The government made it seem as though agents had retrieved information relevant to criminal activity from the Nancy Whiskey Pub, including reference to a money counter and certain drug items,” the couple’s lawyer Gerald Evelyn wrote in the lawsuit. “On the contrary, there was nothing confiscated from Nancy Whiskey Pub that related to criminal activity. Moreover, none of the seizures resulted in criminal charges against anyone.”
The pub is attached to several apartments where the money counter and drug items were found, the lawyer noted.
The only item seized from the pub was $900, which was returned to the couple, according to the lawsuit.
Investigators also seized a firearm belonging to Stevens’ dead father but the firearm had never been used and was locked in a cabinet, according to the lawsuit.
The agent in charge of the case is trying to resurrect a grand jury investigation and trying to “advance an agenda harmful to Ms. Reyes and Mr. Stevens, without any legitimate law enforcement basis,” the lawyer wrote in the lawsuit.