EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (FOX 9) - Police say a 36-year-old woman swindled four undocumented people into thinking she could help them acquire visas by pretending to be the victims of armed robberies in Eden Prairie.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court, Yuridia Linares, of Eden Prairie, convinced the four people to report fake armed robberies in order to get U visas, which are extended to people cooperating with criminal investigations.
Linares also allegedly swindled $5,000 from the four undocumented people who thought they could get the U visas with her help.
In October, police announced they were investigating the armed robbery reports because they had "several inconsistencies." In each of the reported robberies, detectives noted the victims reported their Mexican or Ecuadorian passports or consular identification cards stolen among other similarities.
Tuesday, after arresting Linares, Police Chief Greg Weber formally announced the alleged robberies "did not occur."
The first fake robbery occurred Aug. 20 in Eden Prairie on a walking path. Two people told police then they were approached by two men who took their wallet and purse and cut them with a knife.
On Aug. 30, two other people made another robbery report involving a knife-wielding robber who took their purses and cut them.
An investigator assigned to the Aug. 20 robbery found that Linares reported a similar knife-involved robbery in October 2015 where she reported having a purse stolen and was cut. In March 2016, the Eden Prairie Police Chief signed off on giving Linares a U visa for her cooperation in that investigation.
Two Eden Prairie Police investigators determined the robberies were similar to each other and the 2015 case.
“The suspects were described similarly, all the victims were undocumented Latinos and all the suspects were armed with knives. All the wounds were clean superficial cuts of approximately same length and each victim sustained only one injury,” the complaint says.
Phone records showed the alleged robbery victims and Linares had contact leading up to and after the fake police reports, so police brought the undocumented people back in for further questioning.
Each of the four alleged victims admitted they made false police reports.
Three of them said Linares, “had told them that she knew how they could get ‘papers’ by faking an assault.”
During the interviews, the undocumented people said Linares cut them with a box cutter before they called in the robberies to police.
They said they were afraid of Linares’ threat that if they told anyone, they would go to jail.
Linares is currently in custody and faces one felony count of theft by swindle. The maximum sentence is 10 years behind bars and a $20,000 fine.