Chris LaRiche, "Lothario Notario" who scammed almost 900 immigrants, pleads guilty
This January, we brought you "The Lothario Notario," a feature exposing a local con artist who scammed hundreds of immigrants out of thousands of dollars.
Chris LaRiche set up an office downtown at the Fifth Street Towers and claimed he could help undocumented immigrants fix their legal status. He advertised his connections to Twin Cities businesses on Spanish radio, and recruited a young Latina to help him find immigrants in need of work.
Instead of helping the immigrants who visited his office, however, LaRiche pocketed their money, threatened them into silence, and even attempted to turn them in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a "reward," according to sources we interviewed and Hennepin County prosecutors.
Standing before Hennepin County Judge William R. Howard yesterday afternoon, LaRiche pled guilty to stealing from undocumented immigrants.
Our story chronicled the events leading up to LaRiche's arrest last fall. Prosecutors initially charged LaRiche with perjury for testifying under oath last May at a conciliation court hearing that his name is Chris LaRiche.
Although LaRiche claimed to immigrants who visited his office that he was "European" with an Argentinean grandparent, he's actually a Mexican citizen. His real name is Mario Alberto Martinez-Alanis.
Assistant County Attorney Paul Scoggin filed an amended complaint against Martinez-Alanis in January charging him with theft-by-swindle for stealing from a few specific undocumented immigrants who were willing to come forward.
One immigrant, identified as "N.E." in court records, paid Martinez-Alanis $750 for legal papers. When "N.E." went to his office to pick up the documents, Martinez-Alanis demanded $750 more. Two weeks later, Martinez-Alanis began calling the victim and demanding $1,300 "and telling her that if she didn't pay he would report her to the immigration authorities," according to the complaint.
LaRiche admitted in custody that he "only obtained about five jobs for the 900 people that he collected fees from," prosecutors alleged.
Martinez-Alanis appeared humbled at the hearing yesterday. His hair, dyed red before his November arrest, has been overcome by grey.
Two of LaRiche's many victims
The plea agreement spells out a 13-month prison sentence for Martinez-Alanis, which will be stayed by the court. Martinez-Alanis must pay nearly $5,000 restitution to the victims listed in the criminal complaint. In return, prosecutors agreed to drop the perjury charge against him.
After he is sentenced Monday, Martinez-Alanis will be turned over to ICE.
Martinez-Alanis' case is full of bizarre twists and turns, but one of the strangest involves his immigration status: Martinez-Alanis himself is an illegal immigrant. An immigration judge ordered him deported in January.
Judge Howard brought the deportation order up yesterday to make sure Martinez-Alanis understood that he could be deported after his guilty plea. Scoggin made it clear that deportation isn't just a possibility.
"You know you're gonna go?" Scoggin asked Martinez-Alanis.
"Correct," Martinez-Alanis answered.
Martinez-Alanis' attorney, Scott Lewis, declined to comment after the hearing. Martinez-Alanis declined to be interviewed before his deportation.
The Lothario Notario: Chris LaRiche seduced undocumented immigrants with lies but he had a secret of his own
Chris LaRiche, the "Lothario Notario," scammed almost 900 immigrants, prosecutors allege
Wayne and Greg Freeman, former landlords of the "Lothario Notario" Chris LaRiche, speak out
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