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Published: Thursday, 9/22/2011

IHOP back to serving pancakes after raids

Authorities silent on purpose of probes

BLADE STAFF
A Lucas County sheriff's deputy turns away an IHOP customer at the restaurant on Airport Highway in Springfield Township Tuesday. It was among six northwest Ohio IHOP sites and one in Evansville, Ind., raided by U.S. and local agencies. All are owned or managed by a resident of Wood County's Middleton Township. A Lucas County sheriff's deputy turns away an IHOP customer at the restaurant on Airport Highway in Springfield Township Tuesday. It was among six northwest Ohio IHOP sites and one in Evansville, Ind., raided by U.S. and local agencies. All are owned or managed by a resident of Wood County's Middleton Township.
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Toledo-area International House of Pancakes restaurants were back to business yesterday, a day after federal agents raided the popular pancake houses.

"Authorities conducted a search of our restaurant, and we fully cooperated," said Deanne King, manager of the IHOP on Fremont Pike in Perrysburg Township. "No details were released to us so we don't know anything else. We're just glad to be open for business."

Federal agents remained tight-lipped about the investigation, which so far has not resulted in any arrests or indictments. Search warrants obtained for six IHOP restaurants in northwest Ohio and another in Evansville, Ind., two residences, and a storage locker remain under seal in U.S. District Court.

"Everything is still under seal. I don't know a time period when it will be unsealed," said Scott Wilson, spokesman for the FBI's Cleveland office.

During almost simultaneous raids Tuesday morning, agents from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and local law enforcement agencies descended on the restaurants, carrying off dozens of cardboard boxes.

Mike Tobin, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland, said he could not comment on if or when indictments might be sought.

"Every case is different," he said. "We don't speculate."

In addition to the Perrysburg Township location, the restaurants involved were at 4045 Talmadge Rd., 6920 West Central Ave. in Sylvania Township, 6535 Airport Hwy. in Springfield Twp., and eateries in Findlay, Lima, and Evansville, Ind. All are owned or managed by Tarek Elkafrawi of Wood County's Middleton Township.

Mr. Elkafrawi's home was searched by authorities on Tuesday, as was the Evansville home of Tarek Omar, manager of the IHOP there.

Outside the Elkafrawis' home yesterday, Kelly Ann Elkafrawi defended her husband, saying, "My husband has a heart of gold. He really does."

Mr. Elkafrawi was unavailable yesterday and did not return calls seeking comment.

Cars bearing Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio license plates were parked in the driveway of their suburban home where an indentation left from the raid was obvious on the front door.

Mr. Omar was one of nine men detained in Indiana by federal agents in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Suspected of having material information on terrorist activity, Mr. Omar was later released and was not prosecuted.

-- Jennifer Feehan



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