SEATAC, Wash. - The King County sheriff said a violent robbery and sexual assault reported on October 19 at a restaurant in SeaTac was all a lie.
The elaborate hoax reported at Bob's Burgers n’ Teriyakis was deliberately choreographed by several restaurant workers and customers, according to Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht.
“Patrons were allegedly tied up, robbed of jewelry and two female members were said to be sexually assaulted,” said Sheriff Johanknecht. “Today I can confirm to you, it was all a lie.”
Investigators believe the motive behind the hoax was to avoid deportation by obtaining a special U Visa, reserved for victims of substantial mental and physical abuse who help in detection, investigation or prosecution of a crime.
Part of that lie included fake suspect information to investigating deputies.
The sheriff said it was a racially motivated hoax, pinning the false crime against robbers that were described as two Samoan males who were armed and drove away in a brown Ford pickup.
“Deputies and detectives have been looking for that truck,” said Johanknecht. “What would’ve happened if we would’ve stopped the driver thinking they were a suspect in a very violent crime?”
Both the King County sheriff and SeaTac police chief said it was a waste of police resources and time.
“I don’t recall a time where I’ve seen people band together to form a story and present it to individuals whose very job is to note consistencies and inconsistencies, whose very job it is to flesh out and flesh out the truth,” said SeaTac Police Chief Jon Mattsen.
About 17 members of the King County Sheriff’s Office and the SeaTac Police Department were involved from the initial response to the investigation into the crime.
The King County Sheriff’s Office would not comment on the citizenship status of the people involved and says deputies do not ask about documentation.
“It’s really disappointing,” said immigration attorney Julia Hunter. “It breaks that trust that you’re trying to build between immigrant communities and law enforcement, so that people who are victims regardless of their status come forward to stop the crimes to hold those accountable.”
Hunter said she was surprised to hear about the incident, and that people would go to such great lengths to obtain a U Visa.
“Right now just for getting looked at by an officer is taking 4.5 years,” said Hunter. “Even then it’s just a work permit at the end of that road, and then it’s three more years before being able to apply for permanent residency. It’s a very slow road to risk committing fraud with law enforcement and harming our relationship with law enforcement and hurting the integrity of the U Visa process.”
Johnaknecht said it will continue to take time away from other legitimate investigations now with a different filing of charges.
Detectives are now investigating the incident as a falsely reported crime, and will speak with about 10 people involved.