The El Parian restaurants consistently serve authentic Mexican food and provide good service for relatively cheap prices. However, if you’ve been to the restaurants in Eagan or Lakeville since August (the location in Long Lake has closed down), you may have noticed a change in management.
Why? Because the owner of El Parian was caught using the restaurants as a front for drug trafficking.
El Parian Owner Charged with 46 Counts of Criminal Drug Trafficking
Here’s the story. In late August, 46 federal charges were filed against Aldo Escoto, the owner of all three El Parian restaurants, and two other men. The other co-defendants were closely tied to Escoto and ran the trafficking ring. Rosendo Garcia-Garcia allegedly supplied drugs to Escoto and the trafficking ring. Edgar Jose Ramirez-Mendoza allegedly helped to distribute drugs and invest money to open up the El Parian in Long Lake.
The story doesn’t stop there, either. In addition to hiding a drug trafficking ring, Escoto and his two co-defendants illegally hired undocumented workers from multiple countries to work at the restaurants. Escoto made the workers take low pay and work long hours. He also bought real estate around the restaurants and forced his workers to live there and pay him rent.
Most of the charges the three men are facing are related to drug crimes, including the possession, transportation, and distribution of drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine. However, Escoto and his co-defendants also have charges against them related to El Parian’s work force and the way the employees were hired and treated.
When the charges were announced in August, new owners and management took over the El Parian locations. Reports have said that under the new management, the staffing policies changed as well and everyone working at both locations is now legally able to do so.
It’s still not over, though. Even though the indictment was held by a federal grand jury in August, Escoto was not present. At that point, he had not been seen at the restaurants for at least a month, and was at large in August. There have been no reports of his appearance since then, either.
How Drug Trafficking Charges in Minnesota Work
Until Escoto is found, the case cannot move forward. Even after he is caught, it’s going to be a long trial with many years in jail at stake. Each individual federal charge for possessing, distributing, or trafficking drugs has mandatory minimum prison sentences, so if Escoto is convicted on even just a few of the charges against him, he may be behind bars for decades.
This is an especially serious case that involves the lengthy transportation of drugs and undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America, so it is going to be held in a federal court. However, even state drug trafficking charges in Minnesota have serious consequences.
The quantity of drugs involved in Escoto’s drug trafficking ring has not been revealed, but considering the fact that the ring operated at the El Parian restaurants for years, it is likely quite a hefty amount. This matters, because trafficking charges and penalties in Minnesota are determined both by the type of drug and the weight of the drugs recovered.
If police find you in possession of illegal drugs and the amount qualifies you for drug trafficking charges, you could face up to 30 years in jail and $1 million in fines. Aggravating factors like crossing state borders, past criminal convictions, the use of firearms or other deadly weapons, and other associated crimes can increase the penalties that you face exponentially.
Being Charged with Drug Trafficking Does Not Mean You Have Been Convicted
Even if you have multiple counts against you, like Escoto and his two co-defendants, it is possible to eliminate some of these charges and mitigate the possible sentence against you. In some cases, a skilled drug trafficking attorney may even be able to get your charges dropped or dismissed altogether.
There are several things that the prosecution must prove in order for someone to be convicted of trafficking drugs, including the fact that the defendant was aware of the drugs involved. Lack of awareness is a common defense in these types of cases, because many people transport drugs without ever knowing they are there. There are numerous other potential defense strategies as well.
To know what’s right in your situation, the best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced Minnesota drug trafficking lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).