El Pollo Rico Restaurant Owners Plead Guilty to Money Laundering and Harboring Illegal Aliens
Defendants Agree to Forfeit $7.2 Million in Cash, Properties, Vehicles and Other Assets
Greenbelt, Maryland - Consuelo Solano, age 69, of Arlington, Virginia; and her brother Juan Faustino Solano, age 57, of Kensington, Maryland pleaded guilty today to money laundering in connection with the operation of the El Pollo Rico restaurant in Wheaton, Maryland, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Juan Solano also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit alien harboring.
“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. Consuelo Solano and Juan 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.”
"Companies that use cheap, illegal alien labor as a business practice should take note of today’s guilty plea. ICE has dramatically enhanced its enforcement efforts against companies who engage in illegal employment schemes and will continue to target the profits that motivate them," said James A. Dinkins, Special Agent in Charge, for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in Baltimore. “Companies who knowingly harbor illegal aliens are creating a magnet that draws foreign nationals to enter the U.S. illegally.”
According to his guilty plea, Juan Solano conspired with others to employ illegal aliens and undocumented workers at the restaurant from January 1999 to July 2007, paying them in cash and housing them in residences owned by Solano and his co-conspirators in Wheaton, Kensington, Germantown and Silver Spring, Maryland. To further the conspiracy, Solano did not prepare or maintain Employment Eligibility Verification Forms for those employees, which establish the eligibility of an individual to be employed in the United States legally.
In addition, Consuelo and Juan Solano admitted that they conspired to conceal the proceeds from the illegal employment of aliens, and deposited more than $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 name of Consuelo and Juan Solano and to the accounts of other co-conspirators. Funds from those deposits were used to pay for numerous personal assets, including property, jewelry, collectible coins, cars and investment accounts. As a result of their roles in alien harboring and in conducting these deposits, transfers, and purchases involving the proceeds of alien harboring, both Juan and Consuelo Solano will receive enhanced sentences for managing and organizing criminal activity.
As part of their plea, the defendants have agreed to forfeit $7.2 million derived from the illegal activities, including 13 bank and investor accounts; a life insurance policy; eight properties located in Wheaton, Kensington, Germantown and Silver Spring, Maryland; three vehicles; collectible coins; and, jewelry. Moreover, as part of this amount, Consuelo Solano has agreed to forfeit over $2.1 million in cash found in her home during a search on July 12, 2007.
Each defendant faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for money laundering. In addition, Juan Solano faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the harboring conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for Consuelo Solano on September 24, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. and for Juan Solano on September 29, 2008 at 3:00 p.m.
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.