El Pollo Rico Restaurant Owner and Wife Plead Guilty in Scheme to Launder Money and Harbor Illegal Aliens

Owner Agrees to Forfeit $7.2 Million in Cash, Properties, Vehicles and Other Assets;
Wife Agrees to Forfeit Over $1.5 Million in Cash Found in the Bedroom of Her Residence

July 24, 2008

Greenbelt, Maryland - Francisco C. Solano, age 56, of Germantown, Maryland, co-owner of El Pollo Rico Restaurant located at 2541 Ennalls Avenue, Wheaton, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to 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. His wife, Ines Hoyos-Solano, age 60, also of Germantown, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“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 and his wife Ines Hoyos-Solano now face federal prison time for their criminal scheme, and the millions of dollars in profits that they stashed in cash in their homes will be forfeited to the government along with their houses, vehicles, jewelry and other assets.”

“ICE’s comprehensive approach to worksite enforcement is helping turn the tables on unscrupulous criminals who use illegal workers to cut costs and gain a competitive advantage against law abiding businesses,” said Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. “Solano and his wife put greed ahead of the law; now they'll pay a hefty price for their actions."

According to applications filed by the defendants 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 they 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 more than $6 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 Francisco Solano’s 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.

As a result of his leadership role in alien harboring and in conducting these deposits, transfers, and purchases involving the proceeds of alien harboring, Francisco Solano will receive an enhanced sentence for managing and organizing the criminal activity.

According to Ines Solano’s 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.

As part of his plea, Franciso has agreed to forfeit nearly $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. Ines Solano has agreed to forfeit $1,572,218 in cash found in the bedroom of her residence during 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. Both defendants also agreed to cooperate with the IRS in the assessment and collection of their tax liabilities for the years 2000-20007.

Both defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy. In addition, Francisco Solano faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the harboring conspiracy and five years in prison for structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for Francisco Solano on November 24, 2008 at 2p.m. and for Ines Solano on November 24, 2008 at 3:00 p.m.

Consuelo Solano, age 70, of Arlington, Virginia; and her brother Juan Faustino Solano, age 58, of Kensington, pleaded guilty on June 11, 2008 to the money laundering conspiracy, and Juan Solano also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor aliens. Judge Titus scheduled their sentencing for September 24 and 29, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., respectively.

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 are prosecuting the case.


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