El Pollo Rico Restaurant Owner Sentenced in Scheme to Launder Money and Harbor Illegal Aliens

Forfeits $7.2 Million in Cash, Properties, Vehicles and Other Assets

December 17, 2008

Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Francisco C. Solano, age 57, of Germantown, Maryland, co-owner of El Pollo Rico Restaurant located at 2541 Ennalls Avenue, Wheaton, Maryland, today to 36 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release for conspiracy to harbor aliens, conspiracy to commit money laundering and structuring bank transactions to evade reporting requirements in connection with the operation of the restaurant, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

Judge Titus also ordered that Francisco forfeit $7.2 million derived from the illegal activities, including 13 bank and investor accounts; seven properties located in Wheaton, Kensington, and Silver Spring, Maryland and in Arlington, Virginia; three vehicles; collectible coins; and jewelry.

“Prosecutions such as this case are essential if we want to give law-abiding businesses a fair chance to compete,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Employers who hire illegal aliens off the books and pay them in cash gain an unfair advantage over honest businesspeople who work hard and play by the rules. Francisco Solano will spend three years in prison for his criminal scheme, and the millions of dollars in profits that he stashed in cash in his home will be forfeited to the government along with their houses, vehicles, jewelry and other assets.”

“The structuring and laundering of funds is an avenue used by individuals to conceal the true source of their money,” stated C. Andre' Martin, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “IRS-Criminal Investigation evaluates currency reports to trace the money from the criminal activity to the criminal.”

According to applications filed by Franciso Solano and his wife, Ines Solano, for workers compensation and residential loans, Francisco was president and his sister, Consuelo Solano, was vice president of El Pollo Rico, the restaurant they owned. Juan Faustino Solano, the brother of Francisco Solano, was manager and Ines Solano was the business manager of the restaurant.

According to his guilty plea, from January 1999 to July 2007, Francisco Solano concealed illegal aliens in residences and businesses he and his wife owned and rented in Wheaton and Kensington, Maryland. Francisco Solano paid the aliens in cash and accepted rent payments in cash only. Francisco Solano did not prepare Employment Eligibility Verification Forms for those employees, which establish the eligibility of an individual to be employed in the United States legally.

In addition, Francisco laundered the proceeds from the illegal employment of aliens. Francisco and others deposited nearly $7 million from the operation of the restaurant into the El Pollo Rico business account from 2002 to 2007. Transfers were made from the El Pollo Rico business account to business and personal accounts in the names of Francisco and other co-conspirators. Funds from those deposits were used to pay for numerous personal assets, including property, jewelry, collectible coins, cars and investment accounts. At least one laundering transaction was made into an account in the name of Francisco and Ines Solano. Over time, Francisco Solano also transferred money from the his personal and business accounts into the El Pollo Rico business account to promote the business operations he and others used to harbor aliens.

Finally, between 2002 and 2006, Francisco Solano structured deposits into the El Pollo Rico business account in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid triggering bank reporting requirements that could reveal criminal conduct. During this time, he deposited over $7,200,000 into the El Pollo Rico business account and other accounts, including his personal account. Over the course of any 12 month period between January 2, 2002 and September 29, 2006, he structured and caused to be structured amounts in excess of $100,000.

His wife, Ines Hoyos-Solano, age 60, also of Germantown, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced on November 24, 2008 to 4 months home detention. According to her guilty plea, she knew that aliens were harbored at El Pollo Rico and with her knowledge and approval allowed her husband to use proceeds from the harboring to purchase a $120,000 life insurance policy in their joint names. Judge Titus ordered her to forfeit $1,572,218 in cash found in the bedroom of her residence during a search on July 12, 2007, and in partial satisfaction of the such amount, monies held in two personal bank accounts; property in Silver Spring, Maryland; collectible coins; and, jewelry.

Consuelo Solano, age 70, of Arlington, Virginia; and her brother Juan Faustino Solano, age 58, of Kensington, pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy, and Juan Solano also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor aliens. Judge Titus sentenced Juan to 15 months in prison, and Consuelo to two months in prison and eight months of home detention.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys David I. Salem and Stacy Belf, who prosecuted the case.



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