Despite multiple red flags on a 2013 background check, public school officials in Charlotte, N.C., gave an illegal immigrant access to hundreds of young children. Now he’s on trial for child molestation, and his alleged victim’s parents are suing the school district.
In March 2018, Ricardo Mata was arrested by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on charges of indecent liberties with a child after he was accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl.
Federal immigration authorities later revealed that Mata is an illegal immigrant from Venezuela who now faces deportation at the conclusion of his current trial. ICE issued a detainer for him after he was arrested in 2018.
“On March 17, 2018, officers assigned to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office 287(g) program lodged a detainer on Ricardo Luis Mata-Borjas, 52, a citizen and national of Venezuela, illegally present in the U.S., at the Mecklenburg County Jail after his arrest by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police for indecent liberties with a child and lewd and lascivious acts,” an ICE statement said.
A month later in April, then-Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) superintendent Clayton Wilcox tried to assure the parents and the public that Mata had been properly vetted, saying that the accused child molester “passed the background checks because he had no prior criminal charges.” Wilcox announced his resignation the following July.
However, public documents show and the child’s parents’ lawsuit alleges that Mata’s 2013 background check for the school system turned up at least two incidents in which he was suspected of molesting children on top of two felony arrests and a criminal assault conviction overturned on appeal, according to a report at the Charlotte Observer.
Before 2013, the report adds, public officials apparently never ran a background check on the illegal alien, despite the fact that by that time his after-school “PlaySpanish” foreign language program took place at as many as 15 CMS schools.
In the two previous instances of alleged molestation, Mata was accused of the “forcible fondling” of a six-year-old girl in 2009 and another elementary school student in 2013, though neither investigation produced criminal charges.
The parents accusing Mata of child molestation in this case say that their daughter, who attended PlaySpanish from kindergarten to first grade, was repeatedly molested several times on school grounds during supposed safety drills where the lights were turned off and students were told to hide and be quiet.
The Observer notes that Mata notified CMS of the exercises, but the fact that an after-school volunteer was doing security drills with the lights off somehow didn’t strike anyone as alarming at the time.
“I’m shocked. I’m dismayed. I’m incredibly furious,” the father of the alleged 2017 victim told the Observer. “The red flags were out there, and nobody did anything.”
Mata has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the child molestation charges in April of this year.