A longtime custodial worker at the University of Southern California has been arrested on suspicion of grand theft, leading to students and staff writing an open letter and rallying on her behalf, asking for a review of the case and unexpected arrest.
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a news release that 61-year-old Francisca Trigueros was arrested on suspicion of grand theft.
The LAPD said a student’s backpack was left in a USC classroom around 10 p.m. March 9. When she realized it was missing, about 30 minutes later, she went to get it but the building was closed. The following day she said the backpack was gone.
USC’s Department of Public Safety reviewed surveillance footage they say “captured the crime” on video, and handed the investigation over to the LAPD.
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Trigueros was arrested and released, and the case was turned over to the LA County District Attorney’s office.
In an open letter on Trigueros' behalf however, professors and students want to know how her arrest unfolded, because they tell a very different tale.
They say Trigueros has been suspended without pay, and then fired, without Trigueros or any faculty or staff ever being interviewed.
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In the open letter, staff and students say Trigueros found the backpack, which had a substantial amount of money inside, and when no faculty at Seeley G. Mudd building could be found to put it in the lost and found, she locked it in her supply closet for safe keeping.
“On Tuesday, March 15th, Francisca was unexpectedly arrested for grand theft by the LAPD on the first floor of SGM, in the presence of a DPS officer and an Aramark supervisor,” the letter reads.
“Despite 24 years of service to the university, she has now lost her livelihood and is facing further legal complications due to a simple misunderstanding that could have been easily resolved with a five-minute conversation,” the letter reads.
The letter also says she has been trusted with computers and equipment for decades without incident.
The letter also says the identity of the owner of the backpack is still unknown.
In a report by the LA Times, students told the outlet that they believe this is a misunderstanding that has gotten out of control.
The Times also says Tigueros has an attorney, Rana Parsanj, but the attorney could not comment due to pending charges.
The Times captured images of SEIU members who work for Aramark, the company that employed Tigueros, protesting near USC over the firing and charges.