A former master’s student at a small California college was arrested Monday for allegedly reporting 10 fake racist threats.
Anayeli DominguezPena, 25, of Ontario, California, claimed she received the threats last year via social media and email. She also reported finding a smoking backpack in her car and being physically assaulted by a man wearing a ski mask on campus.
Her reports caused the University of La Verne to close for a day last May.
However, the La Verne Police Department said Monday that DominguezPena had actually been threatening herself, as well as other students in her unofficial “social justice” group.
DominguezPena was charged with six counts of filing a false police report along with false impersonation over the internet and felony counts of making criminal threats and filing a false claim with the state victim compensation fund, according to the La Verne Police Department.
She was booked at the Los Angeles County Jail in Pomona and was being held on $200,000 bail.
Anayeli DominguezPena inspires an “important and powerful moment”
University spokesman Rod Leveque said that the school had held an assembly in the campus gymnasium during the day classes were cancelled. Students and faculty discussed DominguezPena’s claims, as well as the state of race relations at the school and nationally.
“It was an important and powerful moment for us,” Leveque said. “There’s been a tremendous desire for a resolution and to see this brought to a close.”
“I’m not sure this will bring closure, but we are grateful to have a better sense of what happened,” he added.
Police spokesman Bob Nishimura told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that he couldn’t confirm DominguezPena fabricated the attack she reported or if she placed the smoking backpack in her car.
However, Nishimura said the department used computer files, cell phone data and information on an internet cloud server to determine that DominguezPena sent threatening messages to herself, the university and the student group she led and its members.
Police did not identify the student group.
“I think she was trying to instigate some racial issues within the university,” La Verne Police Chief Nick Paz said. “She was sending messages to certain people and the comments that were being sent were of a racial nature.”
According to Paz, DominguezPena sent some of the messages while impersonating the president of one of the campus fraternities. She used the fraternity’s logo and other identifiers of its student leader, police said.
Cashing in on social justice?
Besides allegedly making the false accusations, DominguezPena filed a claim with the California Victim Compensation Board, Nishimura said.
The CalVCB provides assistance in the form of grants to victims of crimes.
“We found the suspect applied for benefits, signed forms under penalty of perjury and tried to get victim compensation benefits from the state,” Nishimura said.
DominguezPena’s arrest is the most recent example of false reports of “hate crimes” within the past month. A Memphis, Tennessee-area man claimed his car was spray painted with racial epithets and, in Johnson City, Tennessee, an African-American woman was charged with scrawling the words “white power” into the sidewalk in front of a black-owned fitness center.
Founded in 1891, the University of La Verne is a private college with seven regional campuses in the Los Angeles area. Its student body numbers about 5,800 students, including some 2,700 undergraduates.