Criminal charges against a local man accused of tax fraud and hiding dozens of barrels of alcohol from authorities were dropped. In 2012 CJ Eiras, CEO of Liquor Group was arrested after investigators found barrels of alcohol they say were unregistered and untaxed.
Eiras posted $2.34 million dollars bond and after 2 years of investigating, the State Attorney’s office exonerated Eiras Thursday of any wrong-doing. Channel 4 spoke with Eiras and his attorney Thursday, who said they were able to prove to the State Attorney’s Office that Eiras’ actions for storing the liquor were legal and now CJ Eiras is ready to clear his name.
"It’s been a very stressful time," said Eiras. "The case has had a large emotional impact on me and my family. Being charged with nearly 70 felonies and having a 2.35 million dollar bond just to get out of jail for the arrest, I feel was really over the top for the circumstances. It’s been a very stressful time."
For 18 months the alcohol distributor has been under a cloud of suspicion of storing 55 barrels unregistered and untaxed liquor at his warehouse on West 16th Street in Jacksonville.
Eiras said the fallout forced him to lay off 150 of his 212 employees and nearly destroyed his business.
"It certainly hurt business. People in general believe what they hear and read in the papers and in the news, so when that story broke, even all over the country, trade publications wrote up articles about this and everyone in the industry was very shocked, because I’ve done so much in the industry, not only professional but charitably," said Eiras.
Now, Eiras said he hopes to rebuild his business and his image. The State Attorney’s Office exonerated him of 70 charges of concealing alcohol Beverages with the intent to defraud the state of excise tax and tax fraud.
"The charges were dropped because the state did their due diligence and understood what happened here," said Eiras’ Attorney, Mitch Stone.
Stone told Channel 4 that he presented evidence to the special prosecutor that proved the stored liquor was there legally as evidence in a previous civil case.
"It was a branding lawsuit that this liquor pertained to as evidence. So once that lawsuit ended there was no way to bottle this liquor and it had to remain, because environmentally you couldn't destroy it, you couldn't sell it, bottle it. You couldn't do anything but store it," said Stone.
"I think that this is a big step towards vindication towards my reputation and I believe that those who know me well in business and personally knew that this was never a true circumstance. And the arrest was a completely bogus situation," said Eiras.