Charges: Twin Cities man used Mexican restaurants as drug fronts

The owner of three El Parian restaurants in the metro area is accused of using the eateries as fronts for his drug trafficking scheme. 

A Twin Cities restaurant owner is accused of using his chain of suburban Mexican eateries as fronts for his drug trafficking scheme, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed this week.

According to the indictment, Aldo Escoto, 38, used money from selling illegal drugs to open the El Parian restaurants in Eagan, Lakeville and Long Lake. For six years, he allegedly used the restaurants to launder money, store illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, and occasionally conduct drug deals. 

Escoto is also accused of knowingly hiring undocumented workers to staff his restaurants and paying them to hide his illegal activities. He often required the employees to live near the restaurants in housing he had purchased with his drug proceeds and deducted the cost of rent from their paychecks.

Two co-conspirators, Rosendo Garcia-Garcia and Edgar Jose Ramirez-Mendoza, are also named in the indictment.