FARMINGTON HILLS (WXYZ) - Action News has learned that federal agents have raided the headquarters of a successful local pizza chain. The feds executed a search warrant at Farmington Hills-based Happy's Pizza and left with boxes full of company records.
Happy's Pizza is a local "rags to riches success story. The owner started with nothing and built a huge chain of restaurants. But now, there's a bit of a cloud over the operation. What makes this story intriguing is that some of the agents who raided the place are from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The man in our undercover video is Happy Asker. Yes, his name really is Happy, and before the feds moved in last week , we're sure he was.
"Could you just tell me why drug enforcement officers would be interested in records from a pizza company," asked Investigator Scott Lewis.
Happy Asker is only 33-years-old and he's rolling in the dough. He's the founder of the Farmington Hills based Happy's Pizza chain.
Their television commercials might be considered a bit cheesy, but the business has grown by leaps and bounds. Asker started at the age of 18 with one pizzeria at 7 Mile and Hoover in 1994 and the chain has since grown to more than 65 restaurants. They've even expanded into Ohio and Illinois.
Asker was recently named businessperson of the year by the Chaldean News. In the story, he attributes his success to good customer service and an extensive menu. He says every restaurant is built brand new from the ground up with top notch equipment and a decor that includes granite countertops. At company headquarters, there's a fleet of brand new Range Rovers.
Happy Asker lives in a house that was worth $840,000 when built in 2004. So how did Happy's achieve such a quick rise in Detroit where the economy has been sour and the pizza business is hugely competitive? After all, this upstart businessman is splashing in the same pond as the big boys. Clearly, the feds are suspicious of something.
When workers showed up at the Happy's Pizza Farmington Hills office building last Thursday morning, they were surprised to see that the parking lot was already full. Most of the cars belonged to federal agents. They were from the IRS criminal division and the Drug Enforcement Agency. They were there to serve a search warrant on the corporate headquarters of Happy's Pizza.
Witnesses say there were around 30 agents involved. They were inside this newly opened headquarters and training center for several hours. When they left, witnesses say they loaded up a rental van with boxes of company records.
"Happy's Pizza is not accused of and has not committed any crime. Happy's Pizza is not believed to be the target of a federal investigation," said company spokesman Neil Master, adding that the pizza chain totally cooperated with the feds and they're back to business as usual.
"They were DEA agents. Any idea why the DEA would be involved in this," asked Scott Lewis.
"That I really have no idea. That was a surprise to us," responded Masters.
Masters says agents did not tell company representatives why the raid was taking place. The IRS told Action News that the Drug Enforcement Agency is the lead agency on the case. The DEA confirmed that the raid took place, but said they don't comment on on-going criminal investigations.
If you have a tip for the Action News Investigative Team, contact us at email@example.com or at (248) 827-9466.