Members of the Mid-South Hispanic community were the primary targets of Tammy Brooks Carpenter, a Memphis City Court clerk who was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of stealing more than $24,000 from the city.
Advocacy group Latino Memphis hopes it sends a clear message.
Mauricio Calvo, Executive Director of Latino Memphis, said these charges are a clear case of racial profiling. For some reason or another Carpenter thought Hispanic residents would make easy victims.
Well, she thought wrong.
"Happy to hear she got caught," Calvo said. "It sends a clear message: Do not profile, do not commit crime, and do not underestimate the power of the Hispanic community."
All but eight of Carpenter's victims have Hispanic surnames. The city clerk is accused of targeting Hispanic citizens who went in to pay their traffic tickets in cash.
"Targeting individuals based on any type of nationality such as what we have here will not be tolerated," said U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III, who added that Carpenter would take their cash and then void the original payment, enter a smaller citation amount, and then pocket the rest.
Not only was she stealing from the city, her victims would soon receive a letter in the mail telling them their fine had not been paid.
Calvo said we all profile in one way or another. The difference here is that Carpenter acted on it. Calvo believes she thought Hispanic victims would not ask for receipts, would not follow up or be smart enough to complain if they did notice something wrong.
"This is part of the solution," Calvo said. "I don't care if you're robbing Hispanics with a gun in an apartment complex or you're committing fraud or embezzling something at the clerk's office, this is a message that you will get prosecuted. The Latinos will step up and they will testify and they will make this happen."
One of her victims did finally notice and spoke up and that's how this whole investigation began, which led to her federal indictment.
If convicted, Carpenter faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
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