By Sean Miner
Aldo Escoto, the former owner of El Parian in Long Lake and two other Twin Cities restaurants of the same name, is facing 46 federal charges for drug trafficking and related charges, according to a grand jury indictment
unsealed last week.
The indictment alleges that Escoto used the restaurants, also located in Eagan and Lakeville, to conduct a large-scale drug operation. According to the statement, the restaurants were used to store drugs – including methamphetamines, cocaine and marijuana – launder money, and even occasionally conduct drug deals.
The indictment also states that Escoto knowledgeably employed undocumented workers to staff the restaurants, paying them to assist in and keep quiet about the illicit activities occurring behind the scenes.
Escoto is wanted on these charges, and is currently at large. Two co-conspirators are also named in the indictment, which describes a drug operation with connections to Mexico and
Central America. Caire defends El Parian
According to Luis Caire, a business consultant working with the restaurants, the Long Lake and Eagan locations are currently under the ownership of Imelda Escoto, Aldo’s wife. The Lakeville location was sold several months ago and the other two locations are undergoing ownership changes as well.
Caire denied the allegations against Escoto.
“All the issues and allegations that were printed in the papers, they’re not true,” said Caire. “They don’t exist at these places. The former owner wasn’t even around for months.”
Caire said that Imelda Escoto has been managing the restaurants for some time. He said that the two restaurants still under her control would be transferring soon to Alejandro Desales and Felipe Villalpando. Villalpando has been involved with El Parian since the restaurants’ inception, and Desales brings decades of experience in the industry, according to Caire.
Caire vouched for the legal status of the employees working at the restaurants, as well.
“These people have nothing to do with those things — they have families and children, and they’re not involved in that other kind of stuff at all,” Caire said. “As far as I know, there are no undocumented people here. I was told that the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) came down, and they left empty-handed.
“All of these people are legal residents, and the new owners are citizens,” added Caire. “The allegations – we don’t know who made them – those things don’t exist here. Those workers were taken by surprise when all this happened.”
As for Escoto himself, Caire said that he knows the man personally.
“I helped him, several years ago, start his business,” said Caire. “He was just a young man, eager to work, eager to build up his restaurant. I give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think all of that is true.” WPD involvement
According to Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold, police calls to the Long Lake El Parian have not been substantially higher as compared to other businesses in the area.
“We’ve only been called to that restaurant something like four times in the last year, for non-related issues,” said Risvold. “It hasn’t been a place of a high number of calls at all. When you compare it [to nearby businesses], I think we’ve been to True Value eight times.”
Police calls vary wildly, encompassing everything from crimes in progress to medical emergencies to welfare checks. Risvold noted that none of the calls on record for El Parian were consistent with the illicit activity alleged by the federal indictment.
“We haven’t been there for any significant police calls relative to any nefarious activity, drug dealing, any of that kind of thing,” said Risvold.
As for the charges leveled against Escoto, Risvold noted that the 46 charges were spread over the three restaurants, as well as other locations. He also said that Wayzata police assisted federal agents in executing search warrants on apartments in Long Lake and removing undocumented persons.
“It was clearly just an assisting role in that,” said Risvold. “I wasn’t there, and we wouldn’t have been the people who took them away, but my understanding is that they did. If they did not take them into custody, they were encountered and dealt with.”
Since the charges were unsealed, the station has received a few concerned phone calls.
“We’ve gotten calls from parents who have kids at the daycare next door and are concerned,” said Risvold. “Based on the public and law enforcement being aware of the issues that have been going on there over a period of time, it might be safer there today than it was a week ago, because they know they’re under a microscope.
“I would say it’s the same about that business as any other business,” he continued. “If you see something suspicious, at that business or any others, by all means, call us and we’ll check it out.”
As for the staff at El Parian, in Long Lake and the other locations, Caire said that their focus is serving customers.
“We just want people to come back and enjoy the food,” said Caire. “It’s good food, and they have nothing to worry about.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story, identical to the article that appeared in the Sept. 3 print edition of The Pioneer, included a quote from Mr. Caire regarding supporters of Donald Trump. Mr. Caire has expressed his regret and retracted that statement, noting that his words did not reflect the views of the owners of El Parian, on whose behalf he was speaking.