Dagoberto Melara told SFR earlier this month he named his new Guadalupe Street restaurant Santa Fe Bees in homage to his late former employer. But according to a lawyer for Bob “Bumblebee” Weil’s widow, not only does Melara’s new restaurant infringe on the Weil family’s Bumblebee’s Baja Grill branding, Melara and his wife also allegedly stole thousands from Bumblebee’s.
Melara, identified in Magistrate Court documents as Dagoberto Melara Leon, and his wife Karen Garcia Reveles, each face numerous fourth degree felony charges of embezzlement, as well as tax fraud, unauthorized withdrawal and conspiracy to commit embezzlement, according to criminal complaints filed this month. In filings from Oct. 2, Santa Fe Police Department Det. Daniel Lopez outlines myriad instances of financial misdeeds allegedly linked to Melara, who at the time was the grill’s manager, and Garcia Reveles in 2021 and 2022, including personal Amazon purchases on the Bumbebee’s account delivered to their Southside home, along with groceries from Sam’s Club and Market Street.
Additionally, according to the complaints, more than a dozen direct deposits from the grill were made to Garcia Reveles’ bank account between April and November last year totaling more than $13,000, and though Garcia Reveles had previously worked for Bumblebee’s, police say it had been roughly five years since that time. The complaints also alleges Melara and Garcia Reveles committed tax fraud and conspiracy by knowingly failing to report the very income they’d embezzled. Santa Fe Bees co-owner and Dagoberto’s brother, Jorge—who also worked for Bumblebee’s Baja Grill—is not named in the criminal filings.
Weil died in July 2021 and shortly thereafter his wife Barbara Joanne Weil also fell ill. It wasn’t until late last year that she became aware of alleged impropriety from the Melaras, her lawyer John Day tells SFR.
“These were trusted employees for years,” Day says. “It turns out they were robbing them blind. Bob’s widow was in the hospital after he died, and that’s when they made their move.”
That move, according to the complaint, came to Weil’s attention last November when she discovered a $1,200 “personal loan” made to Melara, whom, the complaint says, told Weil he’d borrowed the money to cover his daughter’s tuition at Santo Nino Regional Catholic School and intended to pay her back. Weil tells the police she didn’t approve this loan, though Melara told her business’s bookkeeper that she had; another employee also came forward around that time to tell Weil he’d noticed payroll stub envelopes for non-employees.
Day also sent a cease and desist letter to Melara and Garcia Revela’s lawyer, Dan Cron, arguing the new restaurant has infringed upon the trademark Weil’s restaurant has been using since 2001.
“Because your clients are using the same or similar mark on the same or similar products and services, we believe your clients’ use of the mark has caused confusion among our customers and is likely to continue to cause customer confusion,” the letter says.
Melara likened the late Bob Weil to a father figure earlier this month in a phone interview with SFR that was included in an overwhelmingly positive review for Santa Fe Bees. He also claimed that he and his brother had been “dismissed” from Bumblebee’s.
“He was like my American dad,” Melara said of Weil at the time. “He was my mentor, and he always treated Jorge and me as his kids. That was a big hit for us, especially since our own dad passed away in El Salvador a few months before, and we couldn’t go down to see him.”
Day says it’s all an act.
“It’s pretty stunning they’d open what is basically the same restaurant, basically stealing the recipes, the model, the logo—and how far is it [from Bumblebee’s Baja Grill]? 1/16th of a mile?” Day notes. “The point the family wants to make is that Bumblebee’s has been there for 21-plus years, and they want to make sure there’s no positive connection to the embezzlers. Barbara Joanne is heartbroken and angered and determined to recover the money that was stolen by these former employees.”
Garcia Reveles first appeared in court on the charges against her on Oct. 17; Melara was scheduled for a first appearance in Magistrate Court on Thursday, Oct. 19. Melara did not return messages seeking comment. Cron also did not return a call.
“They’re a small family business,” Day says of Bumblebee’s Baja Grill, “so this loss is significant. They’re not some chain—they’re local.”