Guilty pleas pile up in case against car-wash firm - FOX 35 News Orlando

Guilty pleas pile up in case against car-wash firm

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More guilty pleas entered for employees at Danny's Car Wash -- those indicted after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation in August.

The latest plea deal was filed in federal court Monday.  Half of those arrested have already entered pleas and more could be on the way.

A Danny's Car Wash manager pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and many of the plea deals have come in the last few weeks.

The deals mean the defendants will likely cut their time behind bars in exchange for their information.

We spoke with an attorney for one of the men indicted who says this was the fed's plan all along.

14 managers and supervisors at various Danny's Car Washes were indicted for immigration fraud and identity theft by the Department of Justice following a raid at 16 car washes in August.

So far, seven have entered plea deals with the government and two others have indicted they plan to.

"These are very small low level employees who did very little as far as this conspiracy," said attorney Adrian Fontes.

Fontes represents one of the people indicted.  He cannot talk about his client, but says he's not surprised by all the plea deals.

"The government set up this prosecution in a particular way.. where they would go after the folks on the lower level.. first get those individuals to plead or cooperate, then move up the chain so they could slowly, but surely get the bigger fish," he said.

A 78 count indictment alleges Danny's Family Car Wash managers rehired undocumented workers under different names to avoid detection by the feds -- sometimes going as far as falsifying documents and providing counterfeit IDs.

As part of the plea deals, the government is dropping dozens of charges against the defendants.  Many are pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy, which carries a 5-year prison sentence although Fontes says their cooperation could reduce that sentence.

"Certainly less than what they were originally going to be looking at under the bigger conspiracy accusation, yeah."

Jack Edlund, the general manager at Danny's, has pleaded not guilty.  Court records show he had a change of plea scheduled for the end of October that was canceled.  It's important to note the owner of the car washes, Danny Hendon, is not indicted or facing any charges.  

I.C.E. says the investigation continues.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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