SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man hatched a creative scheme to avoid going to prison on a drug charge: He lied to authorities and said he was an illegal immigrant so he could get deported to Mexico and evade time behind bars.
The jig was up, however, when 27-year-old Jaime Alvarado returned to the United States using his passport and was arrested again by Salt Lake City police.
The tactic exploited a system in which law enforcement officials sometimes prefer deporting illegal immigrant offenders instead of adding to an already overloaded prison system.
At the time of his initial arrest, Alvarado claimed he was Saul Quiroz and had emigrated from Mexico illegally. He is actually an American citizen.
On Feb. 3, he admitted to a state judge that he had lied about his identity because he was afraid of leaving his daughters with an imprisoned father. He requested leniency for the crime he had pleaded guilty to prior to his deportation — a second-degree felony for possession of cocaine and heroin with the intent to distribute — that carried a prison term of up to 15 years.
But Wednesday, Salt Lake County prosecutors charged Alvarado with an additional felony for lying about his identity in 2010 to the judge, police officers and federal immigration officers. A $50,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest, since Alvarado failed to report to authorities in June after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers found he was legally present in the country.
Rishi Oza, an immigration lawyer with the Cleveland, Ohio, firm of Robert Brown LLC, said Alvarado's plan is unique but "not a risk I'd ever want to take because you're creating a bigger hole for yourself."