Coffee Maven Cho Faces 40 Years in Prison

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Skelekitten’

Nick Cho, famous for his work as a barista and coffee-shop owner, today surrendered himself to arrest and booking on 82 counts of tax fraud related to the tax debt that shuttered Capitol Hill’s Murky Coffee in 2008. According to the release from the OCFO, posted in full below the cut, he’s facing 180 days in jail for each count, if convicted, along with a $5k fine, and full restitution if convicted. That would be $410,000 in fines, plus restitution for the amounts not filed with the District in 2006 and 2007, as well as 41 years in jail.

The amount specified by the OCFO for delinquent taxes is over $100,000, which would be compounded with penalties, interest and additional fines.

Chinatown Coffee Company, where Cho currently consults on the coffee operation, did not have a comment this afternoon when reached by telephone. Cho was released this afternoon following the booking. City Paper’s Jason Cherkis has a bit of the backstory here as well. Cherkis has now also spoken with the owners at Chinatown Coffee.


Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
CONTACT: Natalie Wilson
(202) 442-8072

Local Coffee Shop Owner Charged in Tax Fraud

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, after being charged with 82 counts of tax fraud in connection with his failure to timely file monthly sales tax returns and to make the required sales tax payments during the period of Dec. 20, 2004, to Jan. 31, 2008, Nicholas Cho, former owner of Murky Coffee LLC, located at 660 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, made himself available for processing and was booked on those criminal charges by the Metropolitan Police Department.

These criminal charges were brought by the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General in connection with a criminal investigation conducted by the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue Criminal Investigation Division. According to documents filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court, Cho also failed to file and pay unincorporated franchise taxes for tax years 2006 and 2007. In total the delinquent tax amounts total more than $100,000, plus penalties, interest and possible fines.

If found guilty, for each charge, Cho could face up to 180 days imprisonment and a criminal fines of $5,000, plus full restitution and court costs.

OTR encourages individuals to report tax fraud by calling the toll-free Tax Fraud Hotline at 1-800-380-3495 or by sending an email to

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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11 thoughts on “Coffee Maven Cho Faces 40 Years in Prison

  1. I’ve gotta be honest, I’m not sad about this at all. It feels like sweet, sweet karma to me. This guy is a big ‘ol bag of suck. But hey, the federal prison probably won’t serve espresso over ice either.

  2. he was merely trying to save you orange-mocha-crappuccino people from yourself. if you want iced espresso, go to starbucks.

  3. Hmmm… looks like Cho’s arrest doesn’t eliminate the elitist jerk quotient from posting here. Pity.

  4. I’m so glad to see this clown finally facing legal punishment for years of shady business practices. My guess is Chinatown Coffee will be closed by Christmas and hopefully we get a reputable business owner in our neighborhood.

  5. I can’t speak to the legal issues, but all the ad hominem attacks!?! The junk-punch issue is old news, happened one time, on a discussion board AFTER the customer threatened to burn down the cafe over a silly fru-fru drink. And can anyone commenting on “shady business practices” please clarify with anything factual? Or is this another case of web-mob-mentality?

    (when i hear phrases like “shady business practices,” i think of human trafficking, putting toxic waste into rivers, wiping out swaths of forest for cattle ranching, etc.)

    I’ve met Nick on a few occasions and he was nothing but friendly, genuine and honest (I guess the “honest” part is what you folks don’t like, because he is so forthcoming with his opinions). So what if he’s an elitist coffee snob?! Isn’t everyone involved in Specialty Coffee a snob on some level? I can safely assume that y’all wouldn’t be happy with drinking instant/Folger’s/Hills Bros/etc. Just remember, any time we talk about “educating the consumer,” we’re being snobs.

    So, really, what’s the issue here?

  6. “not paying your taxes” I can totally understand. that’s where the discussion should have ended.

    “tracking your obligations to the community that you live in” sounds like it could be anything from taxes to karma points to paying off your dealer in a timely manner.

    but i guess the drama of discussion forums wouldn’t sound as exciting if we just focused on the issue at hand, would it?

    speaking of red herrings, why is it ok for a state (ie- oregon) to declare non-sales-tax status? do sales taxes in DC go to municipal gov’t? is it legal for municipalities all over the US to either institute or strike down a sales tax? why only states?

  7. It’s taxes in this case, Will. And Nick’s shop, Murky Coffee (the DC location on Capitol Hill) was seized and closed because he did not track sales taxes, a requirement of doing business in DC.

    Do Sales taxes in DC go to the municipal government? Yes, they do, to whom else would they go?

    It’s surely legal for a municipality to not collect a municipality tax, but they still have to collect state sales taxes. That’s the law. You’re welcome to talk to your state legislator about it.