Eloisa Mendoza, who leads Elko Hispanic Services, is accustomed to steady, slow work days in her office, where she assists Latino immigrant community members with their immigration paperwork and translation services.
That quickly changed in 2018 when community members began to flood her office with concerns that their federal immigration documents, such as permanent residency cards, visas and work permits, were not arriving in the mail. People from Elko, Spring Creek, Lamoille, Battle Mountain and West Wendover were reaching out to her for help.
“It was a nightmare, it really was,” Mendoza said.
It also appears to have been intentional.
As they looked into the matter themselves, community members and Mendoza identified a common thread by using shipping tracking numbers — the federal documents had reached the Salt Lake City, Utah post office but were never delivered to the Elko post office.
The lapse created confusion and panic and even cost some people their jobs and up to $1,000 in additional application fees.
Citing a lack of assistance or direction from the Elko post office or the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), Mendoza contacted Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s office to flag the situation, with some claims dating as far back as September 2017.
A letter dated June 2020 from the Office of the Inspector General addressed to the senator’s office explains an investigation had already been underway and determined that a postal office employee in Salt Lake City had intentionally discarded the missing federal immigration documents.
The accused employee, Diana K. Molyneux, was immediately removed from the workplace and the case was picked up by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah for prosecution. The employee has been indicted on two counts of delay or destruction of mail, and a criminal case trial is pending after an Apr. 6, 2020 hearing was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new date has not been announced.
“I am pleased to see the inspector general was on top of it,” Cortez Masto said in an interview with The Nevada Independent. “They did a thorough investigation.”
The penalty for the crime, which violates Title 18 Section 1703 of the United States Code, includes a fine or jail time not exceeding five years, or both.
Molyneux’s lead attorney Wendy Lewis said in an email to The Nevada Independent that her client has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but did not respond to a request for comment regarding the motive of her client's alleged actions.
Mendoza said she was relieved to see the case be resolved, but not before it had caused her and other community members much stress.
“It was heartbreaking,” Mendoza said of the situation. “Seeing their stress stressed me out and I wished that I could have a magic wand and been able to fix it, but it wasn’t like that. My first priority was to help these people … to calm them down, and then in calming them down, I had to calm myself down and to say, ‘OK, you know what, there’s a solution here, we can do it.’ ”
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