The federal government has been rounding up undocumented immigrants as fast as it can under the Bush Administration -- so fast that an employee at Tacoma's privately run Northwest Detention Center apparently felt the need to falsify the documents of newly hired guards.
On Nov. 5, Sylvia Wong pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to federal authorities. In April, Wong, a human resources clerk at the 1,000-bed detention center, lied about creating fraudulent "entry on duty" memos attesting that the facility's new guards had received required preliminary background checks, which allow them to work until a full history can be completed.
In fact, over the course of the fall and spring, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Brown, the prosecutor in the case, Wong had falsified nearly 100 memos for guards who had received no preliminary check at all. Concerned that Wong's activity could involve others or be a systemic practice of her employer, the GeoGroup Inc., which runs the Tacoma detention center and many other prisons across the nation, the Department of Justice's Seattle office investigated further, Brown says, but concluded that Wong acted alone.
Full background checks were conducted on the guards, he says, with the vast majority qualified for duty. "A couple ended up with red flags -- nothing too serious, but enough where they shouldn't have gone through the process," Brown says.
Wong was fired in late September after the Associated Press reported that she had been charged. She is now facing up to five years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled in February, but, given her lack of criminal history, Brown says, the judge is likely to give her less than six months or put her on probation.