A Mexican national twice deported from the United States pleaded guilty Tuesday to staging his own kidnapping in St. Paul — complete with duct tape over his mouth and bindings around his hands — in a scheme to win an immigration visa.
Alejandro M. Cortes, 46, admitted in federal court in Minneapolis to visa fraud and illegal entry to the United States.
Cortes holds Mexican citizenship, has “no lawful status in the United States” and was deported in 2001 and again in 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in announcing his guilty plea.
Prosecutors say Cortes lied to federal agents about being abducted in Chicago and tossed from a vehicle into a St. Paul snowbank in April.
According to charges, Cortes told St. Paul police he had been kidnapped by several unknown men in Chicago days before his April 17 discovery in St. Paul. He said he was threatened with death and held with a bag over his head. He claimed the men told him he would be killed if he called police.
Police referred the case to the FBI, and Cortes met with agents to describe the encounter and threats allegedly made against him and relatives. But according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cortes admitted during follow-up interviews with the FBI that he was living illegally in the U.S. and often used fake identities to avoid detection because of a previous drunken driving arrest.
Cortes asked a cohort to let him stay in a storage unit with food, water, a sleeping bag and a heater during the alleged abduction and to also gag him with duct tape and tie up his hands before dropping him off in St. Paul. Cortes was arrested on Aug. 29.
The accomplice later told agents that Cortes faked his own kidnapping so he could obtain a visa to stay in the U.S. as a crime victim.
Cortes also admitted that he sought medical treatment at Regions Hospital for injuries he claimed to have sustained during the kidnapping, and he obtained gift cards for personal items from an organization providing services to crime victims.