With two of his Baltimore-area restaurants on the brink of closing, Keith Asante ordered a book by email: “International Man’s Guide to Offshore Banking.” It was, federal prosecutors said, part of a scheme to fleece his creditors and run away to Panama.

Asante, 51, pleaded guilty this week to bankruptcy fraud. The former eatery owner faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, with sentencing set for Jan. 23.

The Department of Justice called Asante a “failed restaurateur” in the subject line of the email announcing his guilty plea.

According to an indictment filed in April, Asante took out loans of more than $4 million to open two locations of the Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar franchise, one in 2015 and another in 2017. The loans were guaranteed by Asante, and a consulting group that he owned, and backed by the Small Business Administration.

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Asante opened his first Boston’s branch in Abingdon and the second in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood, in the 819 E. Pratt St. space that had previously been Velleggia’s Restaurant and is now RYMKS. The Little Italy location was open for less than six months before he closed both branches amid financial difficulties in 2017 and filed for bankruptcy the following year. But not before concocting a plan that would let him off the hook for the loans and protect his assets, prosecutors say.

According to the indictment, Asante used part of the funds from one of his business loans to pay a contractor to build him a half-million-dollar house in Perry Hall. From late 2017 through March 2018, Asante transferred more than $300,000 to banks in Panama, with the goal of hiding income he’d earned through his consulting business. He diverted money from his restaurants into those accounts, which he did not disclose when filing for bankruptcy.

Asante also got his family involved in the proceedings, though not to their knowledge, according to prosecutors. He used his then-wife’s identity to create Temak Technologies LLC in 2017. Asante pleaded guilty this week to transferring money from a Temak bank account to Panamanian banks.

He moved to Panama in early 2018, the same year that a bankruptcy court granted him relief from more than $6 million in debt.

Asante was arrested in Miami in May 2022 and released on a $250,000 bond. According to court records, he was living in Pennsylvania as of 2022. His attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

christina.tkacik@thebaltimorebanner.com

Christina Tkacik is the food reporter for The Baltimore Banner.

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