UPDATE: DA will not pursue charges against ‘unlicensed’ Laredo home beauticians

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Brenda Stephanie Mata, 20, left, and Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia, 31, were arrested on April 15 and detained for a few hours before being released. Both women were charged with violating the city-county emergency plan, according to jail records. But the Webb County district attorney said he will not prosecute the women. (Webb County Sheriff’s Office)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Two Laredo women for whom Gov. Greg Abbott came to the rescue and said should not be jailed for operating a home beauty salon during the COVID-19 emergency, were not licensed cosmetologists, a Laredo police investigator said Friday.

But the District Attorney for Webb County has said he will not prosecute the pair.

“These two ladies were not even licensed beauticians,” Jose Baeza Jr., an investigator with the Laredo Police Department, said in response to a question from Border Report during a video conference call Friday afternoon with media. “There’s a health issue at hand.”

“These two ladies were not even licensed beauticians. They were not allowed to be operating beauty salons because they need a cosmetology license to operate.”

Jose Baeza Jr., Laredo Police Department

Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia, 31, and Brenda Stephanie Mata, 20, were arrested on April 15 and detained for a few hours before being released. Both women were charged with violating the city-county emergency plan, according to jail records.

Baeza said both also had been released from confinement well before the governor on Thursday modified his executive orders related to COVID-19 to eliminate confinement as a punishment for violating emergency orders, and before the governor personally mentioned them and Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther.

Salon owner Shelley Luther begins to speak to the media after she was released from jail in Dallas, Thursday, May 7, 2020. Luther was jailed for refusing to keep her business closed amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said. “That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order. This order is retroactive to April 2nd, supersedes local orders and if correctly applied should free Shelley Luther. It may also ensure that other Texans like Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata, who were arrested in Laredo, should not be subject to confinement. As some county judges advocate for releasing hardened criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is absurd to have these business owners take their place.”

As some county judges advocate for releasing hardened criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is absurd to have these business owners take their place.”

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas

Luther, who refused to close her Dallas salon, had been sentenced to a week in jail for keeping her business open in defiance of state coronavirus restrictions.

Castro-Garcia and Mata faced up to 180 days in jail but were released within hours, Baeza said. He added that both women are no longer required to stay at home. “The ladies, in the first place, weren’t in confinement anymore. They went through a processing phase at the local county jail and were released from custody after a few hours,” Baeza said.

On May 7, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz issued a statement saying “The District Attorney’s Office will not be prosecuting these two cases,” of the Laredo women.

Castro-Garcia admitted running a nail salon from her home, the statement read. Mata was accused of running an illegal eyelash salon from her home.

Baeza said their arrest came from an anonymous tip from someone in the community who was concerned they were offering these services in close contact with others during the pandemic. The pair were advertising on social media without a license, he said.

“All these things flying up in the air, let alone the COVID issues,” Baeza said. “We wanted to make sure everyone was safe. The high volume of people going to these houses to seek these cosmetology services could make people sick.”

We wanted to make sure everyone was safe. The high volume of people going to these houses to seek these cosmetology services could make people sick.”

Laredo Police Investigator Jose Baeza Jr.

Laredo officials have been struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak in this town of 250,000 across the Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, which is seeing a high uptick in cases. Laredo has had 424 COVID-19 cases and 17 deaths, so far, officials said Friday.

The state of Tamaulipas in northern Mexico, across the river, has had 727 cases of coronavirus and had another death in Nuevo Laredo on Thursday, Tamaulipas Health Secretary, Gloria Molina Gamboa reported

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