Family indicted after Wheaton restaurant raid

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Federal prosecutors are seeking nearly $8 million in cash, property and other assets from the owners of a Wheaton restaurant charged with employing illegal aliens and laundering money. The request was part of a grand jury indictment Monday against the four family members, who own and run the El Pollo Rico restaurant.

Francisco Carlos Solano, 55, and his wife, Ines Hoyos-Solano, 59, both of Germantown, along with Mr. Solano’s sister, Consuelo Solano, 69, of Arlington, and his brother, Juan Faustino Solano, 57, of Kensington, were indicted in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

“These employers are alleged to have lined their pockets with millions of dollars and gained an unfair advantage over their competitors by systematically exploiting illegal aliens and paying them under the table,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.

The indictment culminated a yearlong investigation of the business by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service after the organizations noticed suspicious bank transactions, said ICE Special Agent in Charge James Dinkins.

From June 2002 to September 2006, hundreds of deposits in amounts less than the $10,000 cut-off that would require reporting to the federal government were made into an El Pollo Rico business account, totaling more than $6.6 million, according to court documents.

On July 12, immigration authorities raided the restaurant in the 2900 block of Ennalls Avenue and took nine employees into custody, Mr. Dinkins said. Eight remain in custody, and one was released because he is a minor.

A search of two homes owned by Mr. Solano and his wife turned up $3.7 million in cash and jewelry hidden in several places, Mr. Dinkins said.

“This is the problem if you are running an illegal business,” he said. “You can only use but so much cash, but you still have to pay for your mortgage or your car note.”

Mr. Solano faces up to 50 years in prison, his brother up to 45, Miss Solano up to 30 and Mrs. Hoyos-Solano up to 20.

Mrs. Hoyos-Solano’s attorney, Dennis Murphy, said his client would enter a not-guilty plea at her arraignment scheduled tomorrow.

None of the other defendants’ attorneys could be reached for comment.

The restaurant has been closed since the raid, but a person who answered the phone yesterday said it will reopen Monday.

According to court documents, Mr. Solano, Miss Solano and Juan Faustino Solano are natives of Peru, and Mrs. Hoyos-Solano is a native of Colombia who became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

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