Fugitive's house headed to auction block

District 196 preparing for gubernatorial visit  

   School District 196 is preparing for a visit to Parkview Elementary in Rosemount by Gov. Mark Dayton Wednesday, May 9.
   The visit is intended to promote the governor’s school emergency funding plan. District 196 claims it will be facing a
$12 million shortfall in the coming year, a figure higher than previously disclosed. District administrators deny there will be cutbacks due to the shortfall, although contracts for probationary teachers and staff have not been renewed. The district has been shifting some staff salaries to its capital expenditure budget, intended for maintenance and upkeep at school buildings. The district also plans to dip into its reserve funds.
   The District 196 school board recently voted to give itself a raise of approximately 40 percent and designated $6 million for a speculative land deal.
   A house seized by federal authorities following a local restaurant owner's indictment on drug conspiracy charges is scheduled to be auctioned off at the end of May.
   The house, located at 4471 Johnny Cake Ridge Road, is scheduled to be auctioned off May 30. Those interested in touring the property can do so at open houses on the two Sundays before, May 20 and May 27 from 1-4 p.m. The 1060 square-foot house is being sold as is, faults and all.
   The house, as well as bank accounts and expensive cars, was seized by federal authorities as part of a complex investigation into drug trafficking, money laundering, and immigration violations.  An August 2016 federal indictment alleges three men, Aldo Escoto, Rosenda Garcia-Garcia, and Edgar Jose Ramirez-Mendoza, conspired to transport, store and distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. The indictment alleges Escoto, a fugitive since the indictment was released, used drug proceeds to buy real estate and cars and to open the El Parian chain of three restaurants, including one at the Cliff Lake shopping mall in Eagan.
   “Escoto used the restaurants to conceal his drug proceeds and hide his drug trafficking activities by creating the appearance that he was a legitimate business owner and to promote further drug distribution by serving as locations for the storage and distribution of illegal drugs and drug proceeds, as well as meeting sites to further controlled substance distribution operations,” the indictment reads.
   The indictment also claims Escoto increased profits at the restaurants by staffing them with “illegal aliens…willing to work long hours for multiple days at a time.” The undocumented workers were paid in cash and harbored at homes bought with drug proceeds, according to the indictment.
   The sale follows a settlement between the federal government and Escoto’s wife, Imelda, last October. Under the terms of the settlement, the U.S. Treasury is auctioning off the Johnny Cake Ridge property, but Escoto will be allowed to keep a townhome at 1992 Jan Echo Trail, across the street from the Eagan El Parian restaurant.

Tavia N. Turner, M.S.

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Council supports high-density residential plans

   The Eagan City Council approved the next step for three high-density residential development projects to move forward.
   Only one of the three, a proposal to redevelop a 1980s-era Cliff Road office building into apartments, met with approval of the four city council members present at the May 1 meeting. City Council Member Paul Bakken voted against sending two other projects to the Metropolitan Council for further approval, the next phase of the process. If approved by that board, the projects will return to the Eagan City Council for further review.
   Bakken voiced particular objection to a proposal to build about 50 units of low- to moderate-income housing on Lexington Road. Bakken and Mayor Mike Maguire debated whether a suggested increase in tax revenue from the project would be offset by higher demand for city services. “You, yourself, have said ‘More people, more problems,’” Bakken said to the Mayor.
   Bakken also voted against a request to change zoning of a parcel of land on Discovery Road from business park to high-density residential. Operators of the Eagan Pointe senior living complex at Diffley and Blackhawk roads requested the change to build more senior housing, with assisted living and memory care units, at the Discovery Road site, which is near Yankee Doodle Road. Bakken did not elaborate his concerns about that project.
   Council Member Meg Tilley was not present at the May 1 city council meeting to vote on the issue. Tilley has been absent from the council for several weeks.
   During discussion of the first request, Bakken said he expected the Metropolitan Council would support the changes in land use. The first request was for a comprehensive guide plan amendment to change zoning of the 2.2-acre Cedar Cliff Commercial Park at 2121 Cliff Road from office space to high-density residential. The current office building, built in 1984, is about 30 percent full and is still being offered for lease to prospective tenants.
   “That’s kind of a rubber stamp,” Bakken said, referring to the Metropolitan Council’s vote. “I can’t think of a single time in the last 20 years that the Metropolitan Council has ever not approved a high-density residential project in the city of Eagan.”
  


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This office building off of Cliff Road was one of three Eagan sites that might be converted to high-density residential areas.

Murderer pleads guilty for summer crime spree

A New Hope man who murdered a financial advisor in her Mendota Heights office and caused a tense manhunt throughout the area during a crime spree that included invading a senior care facility could be released from prison in as few as 30 years under the terms of a plea agreement with the Dakota County Attorney’s office.
Lucifer Nguyen
Lucifer Nguyen, 45, of 8324 31 st Ave. N., New Hope, pleaded guilty late Tuesday afternoon to one count of second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated first-degree robbery stemming from his July 29, 2017 crime spree.
   “Under this plea agreement, Lucifer Nguyen will be sentenced to over 45 years in prison,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. “If he complies with all the requirements of his confinement, he could be released under supervision following 30 years in prison.”
   Nguyen is scheduled to be sentenced Friday morning, May 11.
   Nguyen was arrested August 1, 2017, after a four-day manhunt throughout the state that ended with a non-violent traffic stop in Blaine with the help of his brother. Nguyen’s crime spree began with a report of a home invasion in Mendota Heights at about 9 a.m. Saturday morning, July 29, according to a criminal complaint.
   A grandmother was at home with her 2-year-old grandchild when a stranger came to the door, left, then returned to pull a gun on her in her bedroom and demand cash. Nguyen then led police who spotted his car after the home invasion report on a high-speed chase that ended when he crashed the car into a pond.
   Nguyen then ran to a nearby senior care facility and forced his way in at gunpoint, ordering the female employee who answered the door into a laundry room and stealing her keys. While residents were being evacuated from the senior care facility, police received a report that blood was seeping from beneath a door at an office building across the street. A SWAT team went to the office building and found 48-year-old financial advisor Beverly Cory dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
   Cory’s car was missing from the office parking lot. Police found it the next day at the Washington County Fairgrounds.