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Charges: Eden Prairie Woman Told Undocumented Immigrants She Could Get Them Visas For Reporting False Armed Robberies

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Eden Prairie police say three separate armed robbery incidents reported to have occurred on Anderson Lakes Parkway did not actually occur. Now, a woman faces charges accusing her of helping the "victims" of the robberies, who were undocumented immigrants, file false police reports in order to get visas.

On Tuesday, Eden Prairie Police Chief Greg Weber made the announcement, saying the robberies, two of which were reported in August and another reported in October 2015, did not occur and that an arrest has been made in the case.

"It is important to me to keep residents informed about crime in our City, because an informed community is safer and more trusting. For that reason, we have aimed to maintain a degree of transparency about these cases, without jeopardizing the investigations," Weber said.

Criminal charges were filed Friday. According to the criminal complaint, 36-year-old Yuridia Hernandez Linares of Eden Prairie faces one felony count of theft-by swindle in connection to the incidents.

She's accused of taking thousands of dollars from four individuals, telling them that she knew how they could get "papers" by faking an assault. She allegedly told them she had a connection inside the police department and that for $2,000, she could get them U visas. She even allegedly cut them with a box cutter, or sharp object, to make the false armed robberies appear real.

According to the complaint, Linares helped two individuals report a stabbing during a robbery on Aug. 20 and two other individuals report a similar stabbing/robbery incident on Aug. 30.

Additionally, police said all robbery suspects were armed with knives and described similarly. Police also noted that all the victims were undocumented Latinos, who all suffered only one injury each. The injuries were all clean superficial cuts about the same length.

During the investigation, police identified Linares as an associate of the individuals in the Aug. 20 incident, and noted that Linares reported a similar incident in October 2015. Back then, Linares and her friend reported that their purses were stolen and that they had been cut with knives. In March 2016, Eden Prairie police received a letter requesting a U visa for Linares, which the police chief signed. A U visa can be issued to cooperating crime victims, who are undocumented.

Related: Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status

The four individuals who worked with Linares said they paid her $5,000 based on her saying that she could get them a U visa. They said they were afraid of both immigration and Linares, who allegedly told them that if they told anyone, they would go to jail.

"I commend the Eden Prairie Police officers, investigators and all who assisted with these cases, for their hard work and diligence. I also want to thank the Eden Prairie community for your trust and patience as we worked through this complicated and sensitive investigation," Weber said.

Linares is in custody. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.

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