IHOP raids: Pancake houses turned into â??crime densâ??

Federal agents and local police loaded boxes from the IHOP on Talmadge Road on Sept. 20, 2011.

After eight months of unanswered questions, federal law enforcement officials announced Wednesday that 18 people have been arrested in connection to the raids conducted at area IHOP restaurants last year.

The franchisee owner, Tarek "Terry" Elkafrawi, and the other suspects were taken into custody on Wednesday for "their roles in a series of criminal schemes, including money laundering, identity theft, alien harboring and arson" that resulted in losses of more than $3 million--all centered around seven IHOP restaurants in northwest Ohio and Indiana.

In the indictment, Elkafrawi is accused of misreporting sales figures to avoid paying taxes. The owner and two others allegedly pocketed $1.2 million in unreported income.

The indictment also claims the IHOP restaurants hired more than 200 illegal immigrants who used fake or stolen identities.

"These defendants turned pancake houses into crime dens," said Steven M.Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, in a statement."This indictment lays out a menu of crimes ranging from harboring undocumented workers to identity theft to money laundering to insurance fraud."

Last September, the FBI conducted raids at IHOPs in Northwest Ohio and Indiana during business hours with Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Police sent customers off site while they loaded boxes into trucks.

The locations raided included the restaurant on Talmadge Road, Fremont Pike in Perrysburg, Spring Meadows Drive, Central Avenue, Elide Road in Lima, County Road 236 in Findlay and Evansville, Ind.

The names listed in the indictment include: Tarek Elkafrawi, Tarek Eid Omar, Autumn Lee Tangas, Kelly Elkafrawi, Jose Leon-Gonzalez, Carlos Gamboa, Khaled Yousef, Jamil Mohammed Awwad, Ramiz Awwad, Khalil Aboudakka, Mahmoud Ali, Mohamed Hassan, Donna J. Harriott, Lucky Williams, Sara Rinebolt, Cesar Avila, Mark Anthony Turner and Yoni Merida.