Prosecutors file ‘more severe’ sex charges against owner of Boise Mexican restaurant

Prosecutors have filed new — and “more severe” — charges against a well-known restaurateur who’s accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl who used to work for him, according to court records reviewed by the Idaho Statesman.

The Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office on Monday charged Jose Fabrizio Sanchez Vazquez, of Meridian, with two counts of lewd conduct with a child under 16 years old, along with felony witness intimidation, court records showed. Sanchez Vazquez had faced two felony rape charges.

He was initially arrested at his Boise restaurant, La Garnacha Que Apapacha, and charged in Ada County with lewd conduct.

“The conduct here is extremely alarming because he used his position as an employer to take advantage of someone he admitted to doubting whether or not she was an adult,” Shawn Kelley, a legal intern for the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, said during a hearing earlier this month.

After being questioned by the Boise Police Department, Sanchez Vazquez admitted that the alleged assaults also occurred in Nampa, according to an affidavit of probable cause. The admission prompted prosecutors to file charges against him in Canyon County as well.

Sanchez Vazquez’s attorney has raised doubts about the new charges, which led to a higher bond being set Monday.

In an April motion, Nampa-based attorney Joshua Jimenez said that while Sanchez Vazquez has been charged with “serious crimes,” the new charges raise “double jeopardy concerns,” referencing the Fifth Amendment, which prevents people from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.

“It is apparent that the state is worried about the defendant being released from custody, so they have now filed charges listing the same victim with the same or similar acts, around same or similar dates in an effort to exercise their power to keep a community member in custody,” Jimenez wrote.

He asked the court Monday to lower Sanchez Vazquez’s bond, arguing that his client has “significant ties” to the community and isn’t a flight risk, according to a motion for bond reduction. The prosecution disagreed and asked a 3rd District judge to raise the bond.

Canyon County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kyra Venecia’s motion asked for a bond of $1 million and said Sanchez Vazquez might try to leave the state.

In recorded jail calls, Sanchez Vazquez told his wife that if “he has to leave,” he’d help her learn how to run their restaurant, which the prosecution argued was referencing the defendant’s desire to flee to Mexico. He talked about wanting to restart his life in Mexico “at some point,” according to several court documents reviewed by the Statesman.

But Jimenez told the Statesman by phone Tuesday that Sanchez Vazquez could be referring to going to prison, adding that the calls were taken “completely out of context,” and that using the recordings is “completely unfair,” since he hasn’t been able to review the recordings.

Third District Judge Matthew Schelstrate sided with the prosecution, increasing Sanchez Vazquez’s Canyon County bond to $500,000 during a hearing Monday, according to court records. Sanchez Vazquez is also being held on a $200,000 bond in Ada County, jail records showed.

Jimenez said he’s requested the audio calls. He hopes to have them by Sanchez Vazquez’s May 3 hearing, where he plans to ask the judge to decrease bond.

“My client looks forward to his day in court,” Jimenez said. “These are some strong allegations, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of everything that’s going on here.”

Victim put on payroll to help pay for pregnancy, affidavit says

The now-16-year-old victim, who is pregnant, arrived at the Nampa Family Justice Center in March seeking help for her unborn child, according to the affidavit. The Nampa Police Department was later notified and told law enforcement that she’d asked Sanchez Vazquez for money to help her take care of the child.

Sanchez Vazquez eventually agreed and placed the victim on his company’s payroll, even though she didn’t work there anymore, according to the affidavit. Police said the victim produced four pay stubs dated from late February and March for $600 each.

In a Boise Police Department interview, Sanchez Vazquez said he “never knew” the girl was a minor. But when he was later questioned by a Boise detective, he admitted that the girl had once said, “What would happen if I told you I was 17?” to which he said he laughed, according to the affidavit.

Jimenez added that the girl had a fake identification card that showed she was older. Law enforcement has disputed that claim in the affidavit, which said the card showed she was underage.

Sanchez Vazquez later said that he “didn’t know what to believe because (the girl) was always making up stories,” the affidavit said. The detective asked Sanchez Vazquez whether it “ever occurred to him” to stop once he was questioning her age. Sanchez Vazquez said that it “cross(ed) his mind” and that he tried to stop, but added that “stupidity was on his side,” according to the affidavit.

Defendant’s family assuming ‘full responsibility’ of restaurant

Sanchez Vazquez’s wife, Gabby Talavera, who runs the restaurant with her husband, said she and her children would be taking “full responsibility” for the daily operations, thanking those who’ve supported her family.

La Garnacha Que Apapacha started as a Nampa food truck in 2020 before opening as a physical restaurant at the Boise Spectrum last summer. The popular restaurant specializes in birria, a traditional meat stew often used in tacos.

While Talavera said in a social media post that she understands and respects the decision of people who choose to no longer support the restaurant, she asked potential customers to continue patronizing the business, because the “well-being” of her family and employees relies on it.

“In light of recent events involving my husband and business partner,” Talavera wrote on Instagram, “our family, including our dedicated employees, remain deeply affected. We send prayers to all those impacted.”