A 55-year-old Newport Beach man accused of fraudulently seeking investors for In-N-Out Burger franchises in the Middle East pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal wire fraud charge.
Throughout last year, Craig Stevens allegedly carried out a scheme to solicit prospective investors to acquire In-N-Out franchises in the Middle East for about $150,000 per location. Investors were told the buy-in also required them to pay $250,000 annually in royalties, prosecutors allege.
Stevens "well knew" he did not own any franchising rights and wasn't authorized to represent In-N-Out, an Irvine-based, privately held company, but solicited about $4.27 million from "less than 10 investors," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
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Stevens allegedly sent an email regarding the scheme to Tripoli, Lebanon, on June 28, prosecutors said.
Stevens' attorney, Ron Cordova, declined comment after the hearing.
U.S. District Judge Douglas McCormick set bail at $10,000 for Stevens and scheduled a July 7 trial date.