Attorney says prominent Mission businessman is innocent of sexual assault charges

Mission Police Department investigators executed a search warrant at Taco Ole’ on Sunday morning, days after charging the general manager with sexual assault.

Investigators also executed a search warrant at a home where General Manager Elias Bazan III, 49, of Mission — a member of the family that owns Taco Ole’ — resides.

Elias Bazan III HCSO Booking PhotoPolice Chief Robert Dominguez declined to comment on what, if anything, investigators recovered during the searches, which took place at about 6 a.m. Sunday.

“It seems to me that someone may have a vendetta against this guy,” said attorney Rick Salinas, who represents Bazan.

The Bazan family owns Taco Ole’ restaurants in Mission and Edinburg.

Elias Bazan III owns the Edinburg restaurant, according to records filed with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. He also serves as general manager of the Taco Ole’ restaurant on Conway Avenue, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Salinas said he believes Bazan is the victim of a conspiracy by disgruntled employees.

“The true victims of crimes deserve all the attention and justice our legal system has to offer,” Salinas said in a statement. “However, this system, that is unique to our country, has recently been abused by individuals who either use it to collect a debt or to somehow enrich themselves.”

Bazan is innocent, Salinas said, adding that he’s conducting an investigation to ferret out the facts.

“My client, Mr. Bazan, is emphatically claiming innocence,” Salinas said in a statement. “We will aggressively defend these false claims and will proactively seek all legal measures available once his name has been cleared.”

Bazan surrendered to police on Jan. 22. He’s charged with three counts of sexual assault, a second-degree felony, and one count of making a terroristic threat, a Class B misdemeanor.

Attorney Marco A. De Luna represented Bazan during an initial hearing in Mission Municipal Court. After the hearing, Salinas started handling the case.

Complaints filed by Taco Ole’ employees triggered the investigation.

Women who worked at the restaurant on Conway Avenue said Bazan sexually harassed them, solicited sexual favors and forced them to perform oral sex.

“She stated that he had told her that if she ever says anything to anybody, that no one was going to believe on her (sic), due to being illegally in the country,” according to court records, which summarize statements made by an employee. “She stated that he had told her that all the employees were his slaves, and that he had a lot of political power, saying that no body (sic) can do anything to him.”

Salinas said a female employee fabricated the allegations because she wanted to buy the restaurant and Bazan wouldn’t sell.

Taco Ole’ had a very relaxed atmosphere, Salinas said, adding that Bazan and several female employees engaged in flirtatious behavior that could be misconstrued as sexual harassment.

The felony charges, though, aren’t the first sexual harassment claims against Bazan.

In 1998, four women who worked for Taco Ole’ filed lawsuits against Bazan, his father and the restaurant.

“While employed at Taco Ole’ Restaurant, Plaintiffs were forced to endure repeated conduct by Defendant Elias Bazan, III, all of which conduct constituted unwelcome sexual advances and harassment,” according to a lawsuit filed by three of the women. “On numerous occasions, Defendant Elias Bazan, III would touch their bodies in a sexual manner.”

The women apparently reached a settlement with Bazan and judges dismissed both lawsuits.

In a January 1999 letter, attorney Rodney W. Sipes, who represented the women, discussed settlement negotiations with attorneys who represented Bazan.

“Since I have not heard from either of you since our meeting on Dec. 3, 1998, I presume that my clients’ offer to settle their claims for $30,000.00 each has been rejected,” according to the letter, which became part of the case file.

Sipes didn’t respond to requests for comment. The settlement agreements weren’t filed with the court or summarized in court records.

Salinas, however, said he heard the Bazan family settled for $50,000.

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