UPDATE 1-U.S. criminal probe targets 7 Midwest IHOPs

Wed Sep 21, 2011 7:13pm GMT

* FBI, IRS, ICE agents involved in ongoing criminal probe

* IHOP parent co, franchise owner cooperating

* DineEquity shares down 3 percent

Sept 21 (Reuters) - Federal agents executed search warrants against seven IHOP restaurants owned by a single franchisee in Ohio and Indiana, a spokesman for parent company DineEquity Inc said on Wednesday.

FBI, Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were involved in the searches at each of the seven restaurants on Tuesday morning, Special Agent Scott Wilson of the FBI's Cleveland division told Reuters.

Six of the targeted restaurants are located in Ohio and one is in Indiana. The restaurants have been cleared to reopen.

Local television station WTOL reported that a "well-placed source" with the Toledo Police Department said the investigation involved allegations of money laundering and potentially undocumented workers.

Wilson, of the FBI, said he could not reveal the reason for the investigation because the warrants are under seal.

Agents also searched two residences and one storage unit, said Wilson, who said he could not disclose who owns or leases those properties.   Continued...

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