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The owners of El Balazo, a well-known California taqueria or taco shop chain, are getting sentenced this week for hiring illegal aliens and hiding their wages from the IRS, Mercury News reported. 

El Balazo owner Marino Sandoval, 59, was sentenced to 41 months in prison and his wife, Nicole Sandoval, 51, was sentenced to five years or probation and one year of community confinement, according to federal prosecutors.  The couple was also ordered to pay $2,216,010 in restitution to the IRS.

The first signs of trouble surfaced in March 2008 when IRS agents executed search warrants at several of the restaurants. That was followed by a massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid across the chain that resulted in the arrests of 63 illegal immigrants.  By the time the federal investigation was over, Marino Sandoval had admitted to federal prosecutors that he knowingly hired employees not legally authorized to work in the United States. Between 2007 and 2008, prosecutors said, the chain employed more than 100 illegal immigrants.

After federal authorities confronted Marino Sandoval with their findings, he rehired at least 10 of the unauthorized employees, prosecutors said.

Nicole Sandoval would later admit to underreporting employees' wages to decrease the businesses' tax burdens and providing false Social Security numbers for them. 

The scrutiny would also ensnare Sandoval's brother, Francisco Sandoval, 56, the former manager of the San Francisco location. He was sentenced in December 2010 to three years of probation and ordered to pay $50,000 to the IRS. 

El Balazo opened in 1993 and at its peak of success, the El Balazo boasted 11 locations covering San Francisco, Concord, Danville, Lafayette, Pleasanton and San Ramon. Since then, all but the original Haight Street location in San Francisco have been shuttered or are under new ownership. 

Read the full story at Mercury News.

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