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Chef believed to have left United States to avoid trial

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

NANCY POWELL ¦ Staff Writer

(Sept. 28, 2012) The chef whose nickname vanished from the Berlin restaurant where he was expected to work is believed to have left the country.

Francisco DePaz “Paco” Lopez was going to be the chef at a Mexican restaurant on Main Street, buy was charged with sex offenses involving a 4-year-old girl just days before the expected opening.

Lopez, 40, had a barbecue party at his West Ocean City residence on July 22. Someone invited a woman who took her 4-year-old daughter with her. During the party, the girl and another child were playing upstairs. After a few minutes, the other child went outside and told the girl’s mother that Lopez had removed her daughter’s shorts and touched her.

He was charged with third- and fourthdegree sex offenses and sex abuse of a minor.

Lopez was scheduled to be in Circuit Court in Snow Hill last week for motions in his case to be heard, but he was nowhere in sight. Assistant State’s Attorney Diane Cuilhe said the U.S. Marshals believed Lopez had absconded to New York. She later said that he might be in Belize.

According to online records, Lopez had a bail bond of $150,000 and bonded out July 26. Judge Richard Bloxom issued a warrant for unspecified violations of conditions of pretrial release and ordered him held without bond.

Bloxom said he recalled that Lopez had said he did not have a passport, but that he did have a green card.

“I’m not sure how this came to happen,” Bloxom said. “He’s in the wind.”

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