Chris LaRiche, "Lothario Notario," sentenced for scamming immigrants
|Chris LaRiche preyed on "remarkably vulnerable" immigrants|
Chris LaRiche, the "Lothario Notario" whose crimes we detailed in a January cover story, was sentenced for theft-by-swindle this morning.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Paul Scoggin opened the hearing with an overview of the case: Mario Alberto Martinez-Alanis used a stolen identity, "Chris LaRiche," as part of a scheme to rip off undocumented immigrants. He opened a business downtown where he claimed he could help undocumented immigrants obtain legal status.
Instead, he stole their money and threatened to report his clients to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Martinez-Alanis' victims were "remarkably vulnerable" due to their legal status, Scoggin said. Trying to describe Martinez-Alanis' crimes, Scoggin said "words fail me."
Scoggin entered several witness statements into evidence.
|Mario Alberto Martinez-Alanis will be deported to Mexico soon|
In one, an undocumented woman recounts Martinez-Alanis "humiliating" her.
The experience began when Martinez-Alanis asked about the woman's immigration status and claimed he could help her obtain legal status for a fee. Afterward, he kept asking for more money and became threatening when she rebuffed his requests.
"From that moment he started threatening me with sending immigration agents to my house, and that my family was in danger from immigration," the woman wrote. "This was very frightening for me because my family was caught in the middle."
Another woman had lost her job shortly before meeting Martinez-Alanis, leaving her especially vulnerable. He promised to help her obtain legal papers. She was devastated when she found out it was a scam.
"I feel sorry about all the people that Mr. Martinez-Alanis deceived, since we earn our money working hard and it is not fair that we were deceived," the woman wrote.
|Silvia Sibri blew the whistle on Martinez-Alanis|
Another victim, male this time, was left with more questions than answers after Martinez-Alanis allegedly sent an immigration agent to his home.
"How do I recover the material and psychological damages that were caused me by Mr. Cris or Mario Martinez? How do I recover the tranquility and confidence that my family and I had?" the victim asked.
Martinez-Alanis was ordered to pay $4,690 restitution to four victims. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail, which will be stayed by the court, and he will be turned over to ICE for deportation. Martinez-Alanis is an illegal immigrant himself, as we revealed in our feature.
His attorney, Scott Lewis, said Martinez-Alanis took responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty.
|Two of Mario Alberto Martinez-Alanis' victims|
Offered the opportunity to make a statement in court, Martinez-Alanis said he wanted to thank Lewis and make his happiness known that he was represented by a "fellow Jewish man."
I asked Silvia Sibri, the whistleblower who reported Martinez-Alanis to authorities, to attend the hearing with me. She gasped when Martinez-Alanis walked into the courtroom. The scammer was known for his loud red hair when he was out of prison but it has greyed considerably in jail.
"Oh my God," Sibri said. "He looks totally different."
Afterward, I introduced her to Martinez-Alanis' attorney, who praised his client for taking responsibility.
"He seems to have a good heart," Lewis said.
Sibri disagreed, and the two got into a cordial discussion of whether Martinez-Alanis had taken true responsibility for his actions.
"There's a lot of people he pissed off," Lewis acknowledged. But in the end, he said, Martinez-Alanis deserved "credit where credit is due."