A Charlotte high school student facing deportation was charged last month with embezzling almost $3,000 from a Harris Teeter store.
Gustavo “Gus” Zamudio was arrested Feb. 25 on felony larceny by employee, court records show. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report on the incident says Zamudio, 18, took $2,907 from the grocery store at 1015 Providence Road where he worked. Under North Carolina law, a theft becomes a felony when it involves property or services valued at more than $1,000.
The thefts at the Myers Park store occurred over a seven-week period, ending with Zamudio’s arrest, the report says. Details were scarce, though the report says Zamudio stole the money by “putting it in his pocket.”
Carnell Johnson, the teenager’s immigration attorney, says Zamudio disputes the embezzlement charges.
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Zamudio is scheduled to graduate in the spring from Northwest School of the Arts. His arrest, however, appears to have made the Mexico native eligible for a stepped-up effort by the Trump administration to deport undocumented aliens with criminal records.
Under a federal program known as 287(g), Mecklenburg sheriff’s deputies, in partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, scan the jail population for potential undocumented immigrants or those who have violated their immigration status.
During their jail processing, all prisoners are asked where they were born and in what country they are a citizen or naturalized citizen. Depending on the answer, they could face additional scrutiny by deputies trained to work in the 287(g) program to see if the person is unlawfully in the country.
In the last fiscal year, 1,241 foreign nationals went through the county program and 100 were deported, according to ICE. Those detained at that center appear before an immigration judge who determines whether they will be released while the deportation process unfolds.
Johnson says he hopes to get a judge to agree to hold a bond hearing for Zamudio within the next two weeks in Georgia.
He said before his arrest, Zamudio had received protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a renewable two-year program started by the Obama administration that protected certain immigrants from deportation who had come into the country with their parents. DACA participants are also eligible for work permits.
Danna Robinson, the company’s communication manager, said Harris Teeter does not discuss personnel matters. But she added that the company “confirms the identity and work authorization of every new hire,” and that the company is enrolled in the federal eVerify program.
Under the previous administration, participants would lose DACA protections when convicted of a felony. Johnson said the Trump administration is revoking DACA status at the time of arrest.
“Six months ago, Gus would already have been released and he could have been home,” Johnson said.
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said last week that he was unable to immediately comment about Zamudio’s case. But he added, “ICE is focused on identifying, arresting and removing public safety threats, such as criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws.”
Zamudio left the Mecklenburg County Jail on Feb. 27. He is now being held in a federal immigration detention center in southern Georgia, ICE records show.
His embezzlement case was scheduled for a preliminary hearing this morning at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Zamudio’s criminal attorney, Jonathan Hipps of Charlotte, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.