General Crime

* Marino Sandoval and Nicole Sandoval Pleasanton couple, owners of El Balazo taquerias plead guilty to tax fraud

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A Pleasanton couple pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland on Wednesday to immigration, social security and tax violations related to the operation of their restaurant chain El Balazo, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Marino Sandoval, 58, and his wife Nicole Sandoval, 50, were charged in November 2010 with harboring and employing illegal immigrants, knowingly misusing employee’s social security numbers and tax fraud.

In May 2008, federal immigration agents raided several El Balazo taquerias and determined that the couple was employing 63 illegal immigrants.According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Marino Salazar later re-hired at least 10 of the illegal employees after receiving written notification from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security investigators informing him of the employees’ identities.

The couple owned and operated the restaurants with Marino Sandoval’s brother, Francisco Sandoval, who pleaded guilty to tax charges in August 2010. Francisco Sandoval, 55, of Alameda, was sentenced in December to three years’ probation and ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. Marino and Nicole Sandoval are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 14.

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