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Casa Maria’s liquor license suspended 52 days for alleged forged name on license, not reporting owner’s felony charge


The liquor license for a Mexican restaurant on the south side of Columbia has been suspended for 52 days.

The Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control claimed a name was forged on the liquor license application of Casa Maria’s Mexican Cantina and a felony charge involving its owner was not disclosed.

The liquor license was suspended May 9. A notice from the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control lists the violations as a violation of oath, failure to report a change of fact and immoral character.

The notice states Casa Maria’s wrongfully applied for a liquor license on April 10, 2023. The business had submitted an application in February 2021 in which it allegedly listed a woman who owned 91% of the business as the “managing officer.”

However, the woman apparently contacted the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control on Oct. 16, 2023, declaring that she was not affiliated with the business, never owned the business and never made money from it. The woman had stated that her name was forged on the application, but agreed to have her name put on the license “so you could have a qualified person on the license but never agreed to ownership,” the conference notice states.

A Missouri liquor license renewal application that was received on April 10, 2023, lists Linda Fitzgerald as the partner/owner/managing officer.

The conference notice states the business was notified of that violation, but never submitted an ownership change or a change of managing officer. The notice also claims Crystal Umfress – who has previously been described as an owner of the restaurant – never reported to the division that she was charged with a felony.

In a video of the conference held in March -- obtained by ABC 17 News through a records request -- Umfress is heard telling officials that she owned the restaurant with Fitzgerald. Umfress is then heard blaming Fitzgerald's son, Chris, for the forged signature. Umfress says in the video that she did not have any contact with Fitzgerald after Umfress was charged with a felony.

Umfress was charged with second-degree arson in Dunklin County, in southeast Missouri. The case was moved to Butler County in January. A bond condition filed on Feb. 1 prohibits Umfress from entering Dunklin County. A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2025. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2025.

Court documents filed in July state that Umfress contacted a witness and asked her to burn a business in Kennett, Missouri. A fire later broke out at Lupita's Mexican Restaurant.

Umfress allegedly hired Kerry Raymond to set the fire. A witness told Kennett police that Umfress contacted her to burn the business when Raymond was with her, according to a probable cause statement.

Raymond, of Gideon, was also charged with second-degree arson. Raymond’s case was moved to Stoddard County. A case review is scheduled for June 27.

Umfress was cited for operating the business without a license in October.

ABC 17 News reached out to Umfress' lawyer on Thursday morning, but did not hear back. A woman who described herself as an owner declined to speak with an ABC 17 News reporter. ABC 17 News also reached out to Fitzgerald.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Ryan Shiner

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.. shows for ABC 17 News and reports on the investigative stories.

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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