A Minnesota man faces theft and forgery charges for allegedly failing to deliver on promises he could get immigrants jobs even if they lacked proper immigration documents.

Mario Alberto Martinez-Alanis, 37, is being held in the Hennepin County jail after being arrested Monday by state and federal agents who were waiting for him when he walked into Minneapolis City Hall for a court proceeding.

Minneapolis immigration attorney David Wilson said that Martinez-Alanis had possibly made off with tens of thousands of dollars by misleading Hispanic immigrants that he could help them find jobs for a fee.

"It's very easy to sell someone a dream that they have been hoping for for their entire lives and take advantage of them," Wilson said. "Nobody deserves to be threatened despite their status."

Wilson was the one who tipped off federal immigration authorities about Martinez-Alanis. He also served Martinez-Alanis with a lawsuit Monday, on behalf of three former customers, who said they had paid him more than $1,300 but received no immigration papers or jobs.

Using the name Chris LaRiche, Martinez-Alanis operated companies called OMM Group and Filing Services Group and sometimes advertised on radio, Wilson alleged. In January, Mario Ramon Cabrera Romero and Claudia Patricia Guillen Cabrera, a couple from Ecuador, and Geronimo Liborio Calle Cabrera, Mario's nephew, said they paid Martinez-Alanis $40 each to help them find jobs within a week, the lawsuit said.

Several days later, they were among 50 clients who went to an office in the Fifth Street Towers for a meeting. Martinez-Alanis told the group that only people with immigration papers could get jobs, but he went on to say that he could obtain papers for about $1,350 each to allow the others to work legally, according to the complaint.

The three Ecuadorans paid at least $1,350, but got neither papers nor jobs, he said. When they asked for their money back, Martinez-Alanis threatened to turn them in to immigration authorities, Wilson said.

About the same time, a woman who had been distributing pamphlets on behalf of Martinez-Alanis approached Wilson. Martinez-Alanis sued the woman, and in a March court hearing, he said under oath that his name was Chris LaRiche, that he was working with the Department of Homeland Security and had learned that some of his clients were undocumented, according to the criminal complaint.

Those actions amounted to forgery and perjury, the criminal complaint said.

On Monday, the State Patrol arrested Martinez-Alanis when he came to Minneapolis City Hall for a court proceeding, said the patrol's Lt. Eric Roeske. The state was assisted by officers of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Roeske said.

Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for ICE's Homeland Security Investigations in Bloomington, said Martinez-Alanis has been placed on an immigration detainer, but declined to say why.

Martinez-Alanis was being held in jail with bail set at $5,000. He's scheduled to appear in Hennepin County Court Nov. 29.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495