Lorena Yañez-Mata found out late Wednesday that federal authorities agreed to stop pursuing her deportation, welcome news for the single mother who had been arrested after signing up for cable at Time Warner Cable.
But Alamance County District Attorney Pat Nadolski is now saying he wants to reinstate criminal charges that his office had dismissed just two days earlier.
“There’s going to be an additional investigation,” Nadolski said. “There will probably be additional charges which could be a myriad of things.”
The Graham mother, who works cleaning tables at a restaurant, was arrested July 30 outside a Time Warner Cable store in Burlington when an off-duty officer found she used a fraudulent Social Security card to sign up for cable. She had no prior criminal record, and would have returned to Mexico with her 7-year-old daughter, a U.S. citizen, if deportation proceedings hadn’t been dropped late Wednesday.
Yañez’ criminal defense attorney, Terrence Hines, was not immediately available for comment. That comes dispute repeated statements by Time Warner Cable officials that they do not want to see Yañez prosecuted.
“TWC did not refer Ms. Yañez-Mata to either the county prosecutor or Homeland Security and did not request prosecution,” wrote spokesman Scott Pryzwansky in a statement. “TWC has no interest in charges being brought against Ms. Yañez-Mata.”
Yañez had applied for cable in July at Time Warner Cable and was told she was encouraged by Time Warner staff to use a false Social Security number when signing up for cable, she said. She had asked to use a tax identification number, but was told she couldn’t, according to Yañez and her immigration attorneys Jeremy McKinney and Ann Marie Dooley.
Time Warner Cable spokesman Scott Pryzwansky said Time Warner accepts many other forms of identification aside from Social Security number, but had no comment as to why Yañez’s assertion that she was told otherwise.
Yañez was then asked to come to the company’s office in Burlington where a Time Warner customer service representative asked an off-duty Burlington police officer, who was working security for Time Warner, to look to see if the Social Security number was real, according to a copy of the police incident report provided to N.C. Policy Watch by Yañez’ immigration attorney.
The off-duty officer, Corporal Andrew Barker, then called up the Social Security administration to see if the numbers matched Yañez, and was told they did not, according to the police report.
A representative for Social Security “stated she would have to verify who I (Barker) was and I instructed her to contact (Burlington police communication),” Barker wrote in the police report. “She did so. She called me back and she could only tell me that the number of the card did not belong to Mata.”
Barker then asked for an on-duty police officer to come to the Time Warner Cable office and Yañez was arrested and charged with obtaining property under false pretenses, a felony charge that generally applies to thefts.
She was booked into the Alamance County Jail, where she was flagged as being in the country illegally, and had deportation proceedings filed against her.
On Wednesday, immigration officials said they would not seek to deport the young mother, who was scheduled for her final deportation hearing today. The Obama Administration has indicated that it does not want to pursue deportations against immigrants who are otherwise living lawfully in the country, but to instead focus efforts on those convicted or accused of committing crimes.
Alamance County has gotten attention in recent years for the actions of Republican Sheriff Terry Johnson, who was recently accused by federal Justice Department officials of violating the civil rights of Latino and Hispanic residents because of his office’s aggressive policing and subsequent deportations of the immigrant community.
It’s unclear what charges the Alamance prosecutor could bring against her. An assistant district attorney had dismissed the obtaining property under false pretenses charge on the basis that the crime alleged did not match the charge.
Nadolski said the dismissal was made in error and without his approval, and wants the Burlington police to re-investigate the incident.
Nadolski, a Democrat, is in his third year as Alamance’s top prosecutor after his 2009 appointing by N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue and 2010 election.
When asked if his office typically pursues charges in cases where immigrants use false identification, Nadolski responded that he pursues whatever cases are brought to him by police.
“If crimes are committed, I have a duty to prosecute what is brought to us by law enforcement,” he said.
Burlington Asst. Police Chief Chris Verdeck could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday, but previously said his department does not typically file charges in cases like Yanez’s. It did in that case because it was requested to by Time Warner, he said.