Charges: Restaurant owner used eateries to hide his drug trafficking operation

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The former owner of a popular restaurant chain in the Twin Cities is accused of using the restaurants as a cover for his large drug trafficking ring.

Aldo Escoto – who started El Parian restaurants located in Eagan, Long Lake and Lakeville – and two others were indicted on 46 counts earlier this month, including conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs, conspiracy to harbor and employ undocumented immigrants, and money laundering.

Federal officials are still looking for Escoto, reports note.

According to the 22-page federal indictment:

From at least 2010 to March 2016, Escoto oversaw a drug trafficking operation that transported, stored and distributed marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine in Minnesota and elsewhere.

He used the El Parian restaurants (some of which he started using money from his drug business) to "conceal his drug proceeds and hide his drug trafficking activities" by making it seem like he was the owner of a legitimate business.

Escoto also used the restaurants as a place to store and distribute the drugs, as well as the proceeds from his drug operation.

He also employed at least 20 undocumented immigrants at the restaurants because they'd work long hours for days at a time. Escoto forced them to live in homes he bought using the drug money, and would charge them rent that was deducted from their wages.

Luis Claire, a business consultant working at the Eagan El Parian, told KSTP Wednesday new owners are taking over the business, and all employees working at the restaurants are legal.

The Star Tribune reports one of Escoto's relatives took over the business this month, and they're planning to open a fourth location.

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