Worker suspected in Utah 'list' says 'I did not do this'

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A computer specialist for a state agency has come under suspicion in the distribution of a list of 1,300 purported illegal immigrants.

I'm very hurt, I'm very angry, I'm very confused... I did not do this.

–Teresa Bassett

A person familiar with the case identified the worker Thursday as Teresa Bassett, who works in the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to release details about the investigation.

The Salt Lake Tribune first reported Bassett's identity.

Woman possibly identified as list creator denies involvement

KSL reached Bassett by phone in Cache County in what was a very short conversation -- less than two minutes long.

Several times she said she just wanted to "let everyone know that I did not do this. She said, "I'm very hurt, I'm very angry, I'm very confused." Then she said, "I did not do this."

When asked if she'd elaborate, she said, "I'm rather paranoid right now ... I have to be careful about what I say ... I'm afraid of saying anything."

She indicated she may have to hire an attorney.

Before ending the call, she asked "if you'll just let everyone know that I did not do this."

DWS will not name those investigated


A DWS spokesman declined to name the pair identified as creators of the list, other than to say they worked together as technicians doing document imaging and data entry. Spokesman Dave Lewis said department workers were told not to comment on the case to reporters.

DWS investigators believe the pair "manually lifted" personal information for the immigrant list. The list, which was mailed to news media and law enforcement, contains Social Security numbers, birth dates, workplaces, addresses and phone numbers. Names of children are included, along with due dates of pregnant women.

DWS says it contained a number of inaccuracies and some information of unclear origin.

A letter attached to the list demands that those on it be deported, although some are in the country legally. The public release of the list created panic among many in the Hispanic community who feared they would be unfairly targeted by immigration officials.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have acknowledged receiving the list but declined to say whether anyone on it is being investigated.

DWS will contact those on list

In the meantime, calls continue to pour in to the community group Proyecto Latino de Utah from people afraid their names are on the list.

The DWS plans to contact everyone on the list whose name appears in the state's database, saying the agency respects their information and that it won't be acting on it.
The DWS plans to contact everyone on the list whose name appears in the state's database, saying the agency respects their information and that it won't be acting on it.

Lewis said those identified on the list who match up with state records would receive a letter reassuring them that the agency respects their information and would not be acting on any information on it. About 1,100 of the 1,300 names have been found in state records, and Lewis said the other 200 may have had incorrect information that has made it difficult to match up.

"Our focus is on giving some peace to these individuals on the list," he said.

Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said, "I know for a fact that there's a lot of families that don't know that they're on this list, and so this will bring some closure to them and understand they were in fact on the list, so I think that's a good move."

He also applauded the state for moving quickly to investigate the case. He also says penalties for intentionally releasing a private record held by the state, currently a misdemeanor, should be stiffened.

"I would call on our legislators, on someone, to review the types of sanctions, the penalties and given the enormity of the case, what would be appropriate," Yapias said.

State officials have said most of those identified on the list have children who are legally receiving benefits. The department administers food stamp programs and other benefits.

Utah officials have said two workers methodically viewed private records to compile the list. The other worker was a temporary employee, who has been fired.

Intentionally releasing a private record in Utah is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The Utah Attorney General's Office began investigating the compilation and release of the list for potential criminal prosecutions on Wednesday.


Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and Brock Vergakis with the Associated Press.

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