An Eden Prairie woman is accused of masterminding fake assaults in a scam aimed at obtaining visas issued to crime victims who cooperate with police.
Using a box cutter or sharp object, the woman cut four participants who then filed police reports claiming they had been injured during attempted robberies, according to court documents.
Yuridia Hernandez Linares, 36, told the participants they could obtain a U visa afterward, the documents said. Such visas are “set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
She had obtained a U visa in 2016 after falsely reporting that she was a crime victim, according to court documents.
Hernandez Linares was charged last week in Hennepin County District Court with one count of felony theft by swindle, which accuses her of taking money from victims.
She is charged with crimes committed this year, but authorities say she helped perpetrate a similar scam in 2015 where she and a friend reported they had been attacked.
“[The victims] told police officers they were afraid of Defendant and immigration,” said the charges. “Defendant had told them that if they told anyone, they would all go to jail.”
Eden Prairie police issued a news release Tuesday noting that armed robberies reported along Anderson Lakes Parkway, where Hernandez Linares lives, on Oct. 25, 2015; Aug. 20, 2019; and Aug. 30, 2019 were not real. Two victims were reported for each day.
Four victims from 2019 told police they paid Hernandez Linares a total of $5,000 and admitted that they worked with her to file false police reports.
According to the complaint: A man and a woman reported to police that on Aug. 20 they were on a trail near Bay Point Lake Apartments when two men approached them from behind and brandished a knife. The woman reported being grabbed by the neck and robbed of her purse, and the man reported that his wallet was stolen. Both reported being cut with a knife.
On Aug. 30, two women reported to police that they were going to visit Hernandez Linares, but she was not home, so they walked to a nearby McDonald’s. They reported that two men approached them from behind, grabbed their purses and that they were both cut in the process, the charges said.
Eden Prairie officers investigating the cases discovered that the circumstances were similar to an October 2015 case in which Hernandez Linares and her friend reported being robbed and cut by two men armed with knives.
“All the wounds were clean superficial cuts of approximately same length and each victim sustained only one injury,” the charges said. “None of the wounds were puncture wounds.”
Hernandez Linares sent a letter to the police department in March 2016 requesting a U visa, which was signed by the police chief, according to the complaint.
Police obtained phone records showing that the participants in the Aug. 20 incident communicated with her several times in the days leading up to and after the attack.
Hernandez Linares was arrested last week and is in custody at the Hennepin County jail.