Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles Files Lawsuit Against La-Van Hawkins et al., for Fraud

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Restaurant franchiser La-Van Hawkins et al., accused of breach of contract, torturous interference with economic advantage, and breach of fiduciary duty against esteemed Chicago/Oak Park, IL establishment.

La-Van Hawkins, Chairman of Emerging Markets & Development Group L.L.C., is a convicted felon who has served time in federal prison for failing to send payroll taxes for his employees to the government. Hawkins’ business partner, Jerry Kleiner, restaurateur and owner of Carnivale in Chicago’s West Loop(, has been named in the lawsuit.The final defendant in the lawsuit is Regional Manager of E.M.D.G., L.L.C., Robert Doyle. According to the lawsuit, Doyle has been included in the lawsuit as an alleged co-conspirator, who arranged and attended meetings with the Plaintiff, in which he and Hawkins gained trade secrets through trickery, and by creating fraudulent, misleading documents. There are five total counts ranging from fraud, breach of contract, breach of contract (non- compete agreement), torturous interference with prospective economic advantage, and breach of fiduciary duty. (Case Number 2011-L-011987 Cook County in IL)

Plaintiff Tonya Van Dyke, President of Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles, through attorney Randy Crumpton, filed the lawsuit against the defendants. Stated in the lawsuit, Van Dyke endured months of discrepancies and refusal from Hawkins to produce the funding and corresponding documentation needed to establish a partnership that would be formed in efforts to create additional restaurants under the soon to be formed entity The Boaz Group of Chicago LLC.

In the lawsuit it states, Van Dykes’ husband, Darnell Johnson, is the Operations Manager of C.H.O.C.W. II in Oak Park, IL, and oversees the entire operation. Johnson met and formed a relationship with La-Van Hawkins, who had introduced himself as Chairman of E.M.D.G ,L.L.C. Unbeknownst to Johnson or Van Dyke, Hawkins’s corporation, E.M.D.G., L.L.C., had been dissolved by the state of Illinois one month prior to their initial meeting with Hawkins .Also mentioned in the lawsuit, was in this initial meeting that Hawkins claimed he could catapult the expansion of the C.H.O.C.W. brand to immense proportions. He also showed Johnson and attorney Kevin Taylor, along with attorney Randy Crumpton, a $150,000,000 letter of guarantee along with business financials showing E.M.D.G., L.L.C’s year to date earnings of more than $300,000,000. Citing a history of “successful” work with past eateries, Hawkins was able to exaggerate his relationships with multiple restaurants, making himself seem more credible; also pledging $15,000,000 of his $150,000,000 that he was to receive toward the construction of 15 C.H.O.C.W restaurants, in exchange for a 20% stake in the company. According to the lawsuit , after multiple meetings, a decision was made that Hawkins would not join VFJ Enterprises Inc., and C.H.O.C.W. would not be a part of his E.M.D.G, L.L.C, which he claimed included Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W All American Food, KFC, and Hardees. This decision was a consequence of the fact that Van Dyke, Johnson and their attorney had no knowledge of Hawkins legal ties to the aforementioned companies. Therefore they decided to pursue their common interest in building the new C.H.O.C.W. restaurant ventures with a newly formed company, The Boaz Group of Chicago, with Tonya Van Dyke as CEO, and Hawkins as COO. Johnson and attorney Kevin Taylor, after their discussion with Van Dyke, not willing to be associated with E.M.D.G, L.L.C., preferring to keep their business dealings with Hawkins and the future restaurants under the corporate entity of The Boaz Group of Chicago.

The plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit, during this period, meetings began to be hosted at Kleiner’s Carnivale restaurant. Hawkins introduced Kleiner as his business partner. In the lawsuit it states, that the plaintiffs were led to believe that Kleiner and Hawkins were jointly opening fast-food restaurants together, by bringing 80+ KFC restaurant and the Hardees franchises into the Chicagoland area. Also stated in the lawsuit, Johnson continued to disclose trade secrets to Hawkins and Kleiner at Kleiner’s restaurant, until Hawkins stated at one of the meetings, that he wanted the recipe for C.H.O.C.W’s Mix and Syrup for “’L’s Cheesecake Bistro,” a restaurant that Kleiner and Hawkins were establishing in Detroit. Johnson and Van Dyke were never made aware that Kleiner was Hawkins’s partner in the L’s Cheesecake Bistro venture, which was to be a signature restaurant. Johnson immediately refused give up the C.H.O.C. W waffle recipe and syrup and sharing business practices and trade secrets of C.H.O.C.W. Upon learning of Kleiner’s and Hawkins’ desire to use them for their own benefit, regarding the signature restaurant “L’s Cheesecake Bistro”. Hawkins went on to say that he would not invest in the $15,000,000 expansion of C.H.O.C.W., if Johnson didn’t comply. The Plaintiff stated in the lawsuit that It became increasingly apparent that Hawkins sought to gain a relationship with Johnson in efforts to reestablish his credibility in the restaurant industry, and to use the newly acquired trade secrets for his personal business ventures.

One the major complaints stated in the lawsuit, was while Johnson attempted to close a deal in a prime Chicago location, Hawkins started holding secret meetings to cut Johnson out of the deal, and secure the prime location for himself, where he would build his own signature restaurant along with developing the land. One exhibit in the lawsuit shows, Hawkins exploited C.H.O.C.W. by adding their logo to his own personal business cards without their permission, under his E.M.D.G., L.L.C. which included on the card, logos for Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, A & W All American Food and Hardees; even after Hawkins was advised that the C.H.O.C.W name was not to be associated with E.M.D.G., L.L.C., and any of the affiliated mentioned companies. Doyle and Hawkins had no intention of joining in the formation of the Boaz Group of Chicago; instead, their sole intent was to gain confidential trade secrets and use the C.H.O.C.W. Restaurant name, along with the aforementioned companies, to help expand their appeal to investors to secure the funding of a $150,000,000 commitment. C.H.O.C.W. Is a popular eatery in the Chicagoland area. Through the manipulation, deceit, and, shady business practices of the Defendants, irreparable damage has been done to the esteemed comfort food establishment.


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Vivian Harper
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