LOS ANGELES — The owner of a small group of grocery stores serving low-income sections of the city here was indicted this week on 59 counts of federal racketeering that include bribing city officials, extorting customers, exploiting employees and ordering murders, according to published reports. George Torres, owner of 11 Numero Uno stores, is reportedly being accused of asking employees to demand cash or other assets from suspected shoplifters; paying employees, including many illegal immigrants, under the table, without withholding any taxes; and paying off members of a regional planning commission in return for their efforts to get permission to sell alcohol at one of his stores. He is also accused of using drug dealers to make threats or commit violence on his behalf, including murders. An attorney for Torres told the Los Angeles Times he will be “vigorously contesting” the charges. Over the years Torres’ stores have been commended for serving inner-city communities that have been abandoned by larger businesses.
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