In the noon hour today, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office sent deputies to Mr. Large Burrito in Forest Lake to assist in the execution of a court order related to a lawsuit filed against the business and its owner, Ayman “Mike” Tel. Tel and his Burrito and Burger, Inc., which manages Mr. Large Burrito, have been sued by the Miller & Stevens law firm and Ernie’s Empire, which manages 3rd Gear Restaurant and Ernie’s Eatery.
The two plaintiffs in the lawsuit have alleged that Tel used dummy Google accounts to leave several false, defamatory Google reviews for Miller & Stevens and 3rd Gear, which they claim has cost them significant business (some of the reviews make specific claims that the businesses stole money or that a business owner was drunk on the job). In an answer to the suit, Tel denies the allegations and filed a counterclaim against the plaintiffs alleging that they spread negative rumors about him through the public and attempted to use those rumors as a form of coercion over him.
The ex parte order (an order made without the knowledge of the other party) was issued today and allowed the plaintiffs to hire a third party to copy the data from Tel’s personal and business electronics at both his business and his home, after which they would be returned to Tel. Law enforcement was on scene to make sure the order was allowed to be carried out. The plaintiffs requested the order because they believe there is evidence of Tel’s digital actions on the devices and they did not believe they would be able to receive the information through the normal process of discovery that occurs in a lawsuit, fearing that Tel might destroy or hide it.
The Times had already been working on a story about the lawsuit at the time the order was approved; more information will be shared in an upcoming story. In an interview with The Times on Jan. 16, Tel denied the allegations and said the plaintiffs had been dragging his name through the dirt in public with no concrete proof of wrongdoing.
In addition to Tel and Burrito and Burger, the suit also names Google as a defendant, alleging that the search engine giant did not exercise its responsibility to pull down false reviews.