A U.S. citizen found a creative way to avoid going to prison on a drug charge: He pretended to be an illegal immigrant so he could get deported to Mexico and evade time behind bars.
But the scheme fell apart when 27-year-old Jaime Alvarado returned to the U.S. using his passport and was arrested again by police in Utah.
The tactic exploited a system where police sometimes prefer to deport illegal immigrant offenders instead of adding to an already overloaded prison system.
At his initial arrest, Alvarado claimed he was Saul Quiroz and had come from Mexico illegally.
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.
"I have a good job right now, a lot of little girls waiting for me and a family that will support me," Alvarado said in a letter to the judge. "It's my first offense and my last. I want to spend the rest of my life with my kids!"
But on Wednesday, Salt Lake County prosecutors charged Alvarado with an additional felony and a misdemeanor for lying about his identity in 2010 to the judge, police officers and federal immigration officers.
An attorney has not been appointed for Alvarado, and a current phone number cannot be located for him.
Rishi Oza, an immigration attorney in Cleveland, Ohio, 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."
Oza said he has never seen something like this happen.
"More often than not, the situation works the other way — a person claims to be legal to avoid detection," Oza said. "I have never seen an American citizen try to get deported."
Josh Loftin can be reached at http://twitter.com/joshloftin .