The Ponderosa Restaurant, near the junction of N.M. 217 and N.M. 337 is once again closed, with its former owner, James Lambros, convicted on several counts of embezzlement, fraud, larceny, tampering with evidence and other crimes and party to a labyrinth of court cases going back years.

James Lambros, also known as Jason Lambros and John Lambros, was sentenced in December to 12 years in prison.

Lambros was sued by Gerald Prue in 2017, saying that Lambros had entered a real estate contract for purchase of the property at 10676 N.M. 337 but had not paid for several months.

That lawsuit alleged that Lambros had not paid taxes or installed a reverse osmosis water system with $16,000 from the plaintiff as agreed.

That case was dismissed without prejudice in September, 2019.

Meanwhile, Lambros was finishing a court case that started in 2017, and ended with a judgment against him of over $17 million; that was a finding of $1.65 million owed to the plaintiff, Meta Cox, along with another $15.7 million in compensatory damages, according to court documents.

Lambros was sentenced to 12 years on Dec. 18 last year on charges including money laundering over $100,000; several counts of larceny, including felony counts; embezzlement over $20,000; tax fraud; forgery; theft and fraudulent use of a credit card; according to court records.

Court documents say that Lambros gained the confidence of Cox, a 94-year-old woman, using that confidence to convert her money to his own use, falsifying accounting records so she thought she had funds, among dozens of charges.

Lambros pleaded guilty to larceny over $20,000, embezzlement over $20,000, tax fraud, forgery and theft of a credit card, in a plea agreement that saw many charges dismissed, including “possession of visual medium of sexual exploitation (child under 13),” according to court documents.

The sentencing terms say that Lambros owes $1,212,213.90 to Meta Cox, not including related civil judgments; $21,558.96 in state taxes; and $18,431.61 is owed to Gerald Small.

A search of Lambros’ name on the nmcourts.gov website reveals 13 lawsuits dating back to 2006, including landlord tenant disputes and serving alcohol without a license in Albuquerque in 2006.

A civil action was filed by Accion New Mexico against Lambros and Roosters Downtown in 2011.

In 2015 Lambros was sued for debt and money due.

In 2019, he was sued by the owner of the property where the Ponderosa Restaurant sits, twice.

In December, 2019, he was charged with criminal sexual penetration, criminal sexual contact, and selling or giving alcoholic beverages to a minor.

That case was dismissed without prejudice two days before Christmas.

That court document gives this reason: “The day after the complaint in this matter was filed the Defendant was sentenced in D-202-CR-2018-01842. In that matter the Defendant was sentenced to twelve (12) years in the Department of Corrections and was immediately remanded into custody. … Therefore it is likely that a conviction in this case would not change the amount of incarceration the Defendant is already sentenced to serve in D-202-CR-2018-01842. Based on the foregoing, the State believes it is not in the interest of justice to pursue this instant matter.”

The Independent’s attempts to contact the owners of the property on South 14 were unsuccessful; the restaurant is closed and its phone number has been disconnected as of Jan. 15.