Man In U.S. Illegally Sentenced in Fargo, Claims he was Tortured by Corrupt Mexican Govt.

Fidel Arenas Torres 012623

FARGO (KFGO) – A man who was arrested for being in the U.S. illegally at Sky Dancer Casino earlier this year has been sentenced to just under two years in federal prison. Fidel Torres pleaded guilty to the sole charge of reentry into the U.S. by a removed alien subsequent a felony conviction in a Fargo courtroom Wednesday afternoon.

The 43-year-old Torres was taken into custody at the Belcourt, N.D. casino in January after a security supervisor contacted federal authorities when he got suspicious after Arenas Torres showed up to collect nearly $5000 in winnings but could not produce a Social Security number, which is required to collect winnings over a certain amount.

The Border Patrol agents quickly determined that Arenas Torres was a Mexican national who had been arrested for murders and kidnapping there in 2013, but the story Arenas Torres told the agents who questioned him about why he had come back to the U.S. in 2021 was more complicated.

Court records showed that Arenas Torres was previously deported from the U.S. after felony arrests for drugs in Arizona in 2000 and again for unlawful possession of another ID in Utah in 2011.

Once he returned to Mexico, Arenas Torres got on the wrong side of law enforcement there.

El Sol, a newspaper in the Mexican state of Nayarit, reported Arenas Torres was arrested for two murders in December of 2012 as well as for his involvement in a shrimp trader’s kidnapping the following month. Arenas Torres was linked to a criminal gang and known to Mexican authorities as “El Pelón.”

But Arenas Torres claimed the charges were fraudulent. He said then-Attorney General of Nayarit, Edgar Veytia, had him kidnapped and arrested on the false charges after Arenas Torres refused to work for a cartel.

Prosecutors acknowledged that at least part of Arenas Torres’ story was true. In 2019, Edgar Veytia was tried and sentenced to 20 years’ in prison in New York after pleading guilty to participating in an international drug manufacturing and distribution conspiracy. An investigation found that Veytia released members and associates of the violent H-2 Cartel from prison after they had been arrested for drug trafficking-related crimes, instructed corrupt Mexican law enforcement officers to target rival drug traffickers for wiretaps and arrests, and assisted H-2 in carrying out and covering up murders and other acts of violence.

The H-2 Cartel is based in Nayarit and Sinaloa, Mexico, with distribution cells across the U.S., including in Minnesota.

Arenas Torres claimed he and his family were victims of H-2. He said he was tortured while he was imprisoned for 8-and-a-half years awaiting trial on false charges. He said his scars were from electrocution, an attempt to cut off his ear, and torture by taser by prison guards who were doing the bidding of Veytia and the cartel. He said his family was forced to pay $100,000 to the cartel in return for their safety.

Arenas Torres eventually stood trial and was acquitted of the charges against him in Mexico. He illegally returned to the U.S. shortly thereafter.

Defense attorneys for Arenas Torres argued for a lighter sentence, including credit for time served, due to what he endured and was trying to escape from in Mexico.

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota Jacob Rodenbiker said that while some of Arenas Torres story may be true, the court was relying on Arenas Torres’ word alone, and it was also possible Arenas Torres had been working for a rival cartel, which could’ve led to some or all of the physical scars and torture he described.

Rodenbiker said Arenas Torres could have applied for asylum based on his powerful claims but instead chose to re-enter the U.S. illegally. Still, prosecutors asked District Court Judge Peter Welte to impose the light end of the sentencing guidelines, which called for 21-27 months. Arenas Torres faced a maximum of ten years and a $250,000 fine.

Welte sentenced Arenas Torres to 21 months in prison and one year of supervised release. He also imposed a special condition that if Arenas Torres returned to the U.S. again after his likely deportation after his sentence was complete, that he must immediately alert the U.S Probation Office. Welte encouraged Arenas Torres to seek legal aid while he was imprisoned to see if there was a way for him to avoid going back to Mexico.

Arenas Torres, who has five children living in the U.S., addressed the court at the end of the hearing.

“I didn’t think of the consequences when I came to the U.S.,” he said. “I was scared of the Mexican government. They go to your house and turn you over to the cartels, which are powerful and in control of all of Mexico and you can’t do anything about it. That’s why I came here. I am sorry.”

Categories: Crime, Local News, North Dakota News