Chris LaRiche seduces immigrants with lies

He offered empty promises but had secrets of his own

"Our members are the ones that have to tell them, 'The notario ripped you off,'" laments Reid Trautz, a director at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "I can't help you now because the one shot has been taken away by the notario."

  

LARICHE SOLD HIMSELF to the Twin Cities' Latino community as a respectable businessman who could put people to work.

B FRESH Photography and Media
Attorney David Wilson (top) brought LaRiche down; undocumented immigrants like Patricia and Mario Cabrera (below) were the targets of LaRiche's scams
B FRESH Photography and Media
Attorney David Wilson (top) brought LaRiche down; undocumented immigrants like Patricia and Mario Cabrera (below) were the targets of LaRiche's scams

LaRiche brought that pitch to La Invasora listeners last winter, when he began advertising his services on AM 1400. The ads promised to help Latinos find jobs in the restaurant and cleaning industries.

"He didn't say what companies," recalls Karla Ortiz, the sales representative who sold ads to LaRiche. "He just said different types and different companies in different cities."

Ortiz spoke regularly with LaRiche last January. LaRiche didn't want to sign a long-term advertising contract with the station, so he would call every day to renew his ad. One week, Ortiz wasn't in the office because her three-month-old baby was sick. LaRiche left her a number of voicemails, confused about her disappearance.

When Ortiz returned to work, she called her client back and apologized for her absence. LaRiche came across as kind and understanding.

"If you need anything, I can help," he said, offering to send flowers to the hospital.

The advertising seemed to be working: LaRiche told Ortiz he was taking 100 calls a day from Latinos interested in work, and so he kept buying ads.

But two weeks after LaRiche placed his first ad, a flood of calls came into the station complaining that LaRiche wasn't actually helping anyone find work. Angry customers told Ortiz that LaRiche had charged them a job application fee but didn't deliver on his promises.

Station management instructed Ortiz to ask LaRiche for more information about his company, but LaRiche refused to give her any records. She remembers him becoming abusive, calling her "stupid" and "retarded." The last time they spoke, LaRiche even criticized her parenting skills.

"That's why your baby is sick," LaRiche spat. "Because you're a bad mother."

Ortiz went to her supervisor, Juan Carlos Alanis, and played one of LaRiche's voicemails for him. Alanis told Ortiz to send LaRiche packing—his business was no longer welcome.

When LaRiche called again, Alanis told him the station wasn't going to run his advertisements anymore because of the customer complaints.

"I'm going to sue your company," LaRiche responded. "I'm going to take everything you have."

Latino media mogul Alberto Monserrate, who owns the station, heard about LaRiche's behavior. He was upset that someone was abusing his employees and disappointed his station had run an ad that didn't deliver on its promises. Monserrate, who also owns a Latino newspaper, had never received complaints about an employment agency before.

"I was pretty disgusted," Monserrate says. "This guy was something else."

  

DAVID WILSON'S EYEBROWS ROSE when he saw the young woman sitting on the waiting room couch in his law office. He hadn't seen Silvia Sibri in quite a while, but he knew from the upset look on her face that she was in trouble.

It wasn't the first time she had come to him for help. Three years earlier, the petite Ecuadoran, then 18 years old, came to Wilson for aid with her immigration case. He had won her legal status in the United States.

Now she needed his help dealing with LaRiche.

Sibri had answered a Craigslist ad for employment in January. LaRiche hired her to pass out flyers and go into the community to find unemployed Latinos. Sibri was quite successful, bringing in, by her estimate, over 150 clients.

One day, LaRiche asked if Sibri had a boyfriend. When she said yes, LaRiche asked if her boyfriend was jealous.

"I would be jealous if you were my girlfriend and were talking with people," LaRiche said, according to Sibri.

"I'm working," Sibri answered. "I'm not doing anything else."

"How much do you want to leave your boyfriend?" LaRiche allegedly offered. "$1,000? $2,000? $3,000 a month?"

Sibri politely declined. But that wasn't the only time LaRiche had been accused of making unwanted sexual advances.

For 18 months, Lariche lived at the Westin Hotel, where he spent $25,000, by his own account. Yet LaRiche didn't get along with the general manager, Mark Deinart, who "always had a bad attitude," according to a lawsuit LaRiche filed against Deinart last August.

One day last summer, Deinart kicked LaRiche out of the Westin after accusing him of sexually harassing hotel staff, LaRiche claims in court records. LaRiche demanded "proof" of the allegations, but Deinart wouldn't entertain him. (Deinart declined to comment, as did his attorney, Colby Lund.) The case was dismissed after LaRiche failed to show up for a court hearing this past December.

LaRiche's indecent proposal contributed to a growing feeling of discomfort for Sibri, who was receiving phone calls from immigrants complaining that LaRiche wasn't actually setting them up with jobs.

To one group of Latinos, he promised work with a cleaning company, but then claimed it fell through because their work uniforms hadn't arrived. Another group expected jobs at a restaurant, but LaRiche claimed the start date was pushed back because the building was under construction.

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