Erick Giovanni Toso of Dallas, who owns and operates Margarita’s Mexican Cantina on Veterans Memorial Highway in Austell, was arrested Tuesday night on charges of contributing alcohol to a minor, sexual battery and aggravated sexual battery. He remains in jail without bond.
According to the warrant, Toso performed sexual acts with a teenager in the women’s restroom of his restaurant without her consent July 25. He is also accused of serving the girl four alcoholic drinks and three tequila shots.
News of the arrest was a relief to the teen’s mother.
“The people need to be aware that this happened, plus there are young girls that work there and their mamas need to know,” said the child’s mother, who asked that her name be withheld to protect her daughter’s identity. “He claims that he’s running a family establishment.”
The woman said her husband woke up at 3 a.m. July 26 and realized his daughter had not returned home from work at Margarita’s.
“I started calling her phone and she didn’t answer,” the mother said. “I got in the car, drove to the restaurant and no one was there, so we went to the Austell Police Department.”
After telling police her daughter was last seen at Toso’s restaurant, an officer called Toso immediately.
“(Toso and the teen) were at Waffle House,” the mother said. “The law officer instructed him to bring her to the police department.”
When Toso pulled up to the department, the teen got out of the car and
appeared drunk, she said.
“I was standing two feet in front of her and she couldn’t recognize me,” the mother said. “She has no memory or recollection of this night.”
Police gave the teen a Breathalyzer test. She blew a .185, and she was charged with underage possession.
“I couldn’t believe she blew that,” the mother said. “It’s not in her character to be like that.”
The mother said Toso was not arrested that night.
A few days later, the mother discovered her child was “covered in bruises” and had lacerations on her genitalia.
She believes her child might have been raped.
“The following Tuesday, she was having so many issues that I called the doctor and they told us to take her to the hospital immediately,” she said. “I’ve never dealt with anything like this before, so we didn’t know about rape kits.”
The examination showed no evidence of a rape because it was done five days after the incident reportedly occurred, the mother said.
She still urged Austell Police to look into the case, but nothing happened until more than six weeks later.
“I was frustrated that it took so long,” the mother said. “We just wanted them to do something about it. We don’t want this to happen again.”
Deputy Chief Natalie Poulk with Austell Police said it took until Tuesday to make the arrest because officers interviewed several possible victims and witnesses. She could not say how many people were interviewed, nor was she able to give further details about the incident.
One server at Toso’s restaurant was cited for serving a minor in 2010.
City of Austell spokesperson Carolyn Duncan said that Margarita’s Mexican Cantina does have a liquor license and that to date, the restaurant’s permit has not been revoked or suspended for any reason.