Clovis restaurant owner sues daughter and son-in-law for business’ failure

Renee and Brian Velasquez ran REV’S. Brian Velasquez is a former Marine and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who once worked at Gary Danko.
Renee and Brian Velasquez ran REV’S. Brian Velasquez is a former Marine and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who once worked at Gary Danko. Fresno Bee file

To many, Rev’s restaurant in Old Town Clovis was a hot spot for diners wanting great food, a friendly atmosphere and top-notch service.

But behind the scenes, this was not one big happy family.

Brian and Renee Velasquez, the operators of Rev’s, have been accused in a lawsuit of siphoning money away from the business to launch another restaurant, forging signatures for more cash and slowly dragging the restaurant into debt.

The defendants have denied the accusations in court papers.

When Rev’s closed abruptly last September after nearly a four-year run, the business owed thousands of dollars to vendors, suppliers and employees, according to the lawsuit filed last fall in Fresno County Superior Court.

And perhaps even more surprising to some is that the lawsuit was filed by Renee’s parents, Ted and Lilly Bond of Clovis.

The Bonds agreed to partner with their daughter and her chef husband to open Rev’s in November 2014. The elder couple would often dine in the restaurant that became one of the bright spots in Old Town Clovis.

Now they are suing for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and dissolution of partnership, among several other things.

Contained in the lawsuit, filed Oct. 18, 2018, are these specific allegations:

The Velasquezes failed to pay state taxes and owe $98,000.

At least five creditors have demanded payment from the Bonds.

Renee Velasquez forged her mother’s signature to get loans.

The Bonds estimate that from November 2014 through September 2018 at least $350,000 of partnership funds were “willfully, wrongfully and maliciously taken by Renee and Brian from Rev’s for their own individual purposes.”

The case is scheduled for a jury trial on April 13, 2020. The Bonds are asking for damages of no less than $350,000, attorney’s fees and other relief the court deems just and reasonable.

The lawsuit alleges the Velasquezes were diverting money away from the partnership without the knowledge of the Bonds in order to fund a new restaurant, Rev’s Farmhouse in Oakhurst. That restaurant opened in August 2018.

“This wrongful taking of these funds had no valid partnership purpose and was solely for the personal benefit of Renee and Brian to fund their lifestyle,” the suit states.

The Bonds have hired Fresno-based attorney Glen Gates.

Renee Velasquez is also accused of obtaining money by forging her mothers name on loan documents. In one case, she is alleged to have received $43,000 from a company that provides loans to small businesses.

“Lilly and Ted had no knowledge of this agreement at the time, did not sign the agreement and never consented to it,” the lawsuit states.

The Velasquezes have denied any wrongdoing, according to a reply filed in court. They also allege that if the Bonds suffered any financial harm, it was through their own negligence and failure to take action.

They also allege the Bonds knew the risks of running a business and “The actions taken by Defendants (Renee and Brian) were the exercise of reasonable business judgment,” according to court documents.

The Bonds’ attorney disagrees and intends to get bank records from the Velasquezes to determine where the restaurant’s money went.

“Defendant Renee Velasquez has admitted to signing Lilly Bond’s name on financial documents,” the lawsuit states. “Thus, Plaintiffs have good cause to discover not only the financial information requested, but also to discover the signatory cards to determine whether Renee Velasquez, or anyone else, has falsified Lilly Bond’s signature on any other documents.”

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A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering various topics including education, business and agriculture. He currently covers courts.