When the Victim is the Criminal

Jeanne Mundango Manunga was a woman scorned.  That should have been the first clue, but apparently no one bothered to give it much thought.  Instead, the police focused on her complaint.

Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis said that after Manunga and her former boyfriend stopped dating in 2008, she took out a pre-paid cell phone in his sister-in-law’s name, and started sending the threatening text messages to her regular cell phone.

Manunga then went to three different police departments on at least 19 occasions and claimed that the ex-boyfriend and the sister-in-law were behind the threats.

Manunga apparently sent hundreds of threatening and harassing text messages.  To herself.  And it worked.

They were arrested on false charges of making criminal threats and required to post thousands of dollars in bail. The sister-in-law was arrested three times, and spent some time in custody before she could gather enough funds to pay the bail on her third arrest.

Consider the scenario.  The ex-boyfriend and sister-in-law, obviously aware that they weren’t sending text messages, complain that they are being falsely accused.  The whole courtroom erupts into laughter as the judge sets bail.  What could possibly go wrong here?

Her scheme was uncovered when the victims went to the phone store, talked with the salesman and learned that Manunga had bought the pre-paid phone under the sister-in-law’s name, Guirguis said.

They reported that information to a Costa Mesa police detective, but by then a third arrest warrant had been issued for the sister-in-law.

During a follow-up investigation, the detective discovered that most of the threatening text messages were sent when the pre-paid cell phone was in close proximity to Manunga’s home or work, Guirguis said.

Notice that it was left to the defendants to investigate?  That’s because the police already had their perps in custody.  They were high-fiving, munching stale donuts and praising each other’s brilliant detective work.  Woo hoo, nailed them text message harassers.  Time to hand out the medals.  Even after the defendants’ investigation panned out, they were taken in on the open warrant, forced to await the “follow-up investigation.”  Of course, there can’t be a follow-up until there’s an initial investigation.  Details. 

The only problem, apparently, is that their victim was the criminal.  That doesn’t mean they won’t get medals, fortunately.

Not everybody is Mel Gibson.  Not every woman who claims to be the victim of threats and harassment is telling the truth.  Not every male is a manipulative nutjob.  After years of neglecting domestic violence, the pendulum has swung too far the other way.  Yes, it happens.  No, not always.  And no, the woman isn’t always right.

The most painful part of this story is how a scheme by a woman scorned was subject to no scrutiny whatsoever, and resulted in a man and woman being detained to sate the “victim’s” need for vengeance.  Crazy stuff happens.  It wouldn’t kill anybody in the system to do that little bit of legwork that would reveal the purported victim to be the criminal. 

It really can’t be this easy for someone to hatch a scheme and use the machinery of the legal system to her own advantage. 

H/TJustin Wilder

8 thoughts on “When the Victim is the Criminal

  1. The Writer

    Very funny…if a little sick and disappointing. So, really not very funny…

    Thanks for the post. I hope you don’t mind; I shared it on my blog.

  2. SHG

    The Writer?  Are you hiding from the Feds?  I’m happy to have you share my post, though it would be appreciated if you used an excerpt rather than copy it in its entirety.

  3. Alice Harris

    Oh, but it is this easy to have someone arrested falsely. Happens way, way too much. It is (often) left to the innocent accused to investigate what is actually going on. If you don’t know this already, you are lucky. You could be the next victim of false testimony, so count yourself lucky if it never happens to you.

  4. SHG

    The last sentence was a rhetorical question for law enforcement, but thanks for the firm grasp of the obvious.

  5. The Writer

    Got it. I’ll revise in the morning.

    (not hiding, just not flaunting it…anyone who looked could probably figure it out, if they really wanted to)

  6. Frank N.

    This may be something obvious I’m grasping, but when you say “The last sentence was a rhetorical question …” probably the sentence should be at the least a question.

  7. SHG

    Had it been an actual question, it would have invited the obvious answers it received from layfolk.  Bear in mind, this is a law blog, read primarily by lawyers who both know and understand that this, obviously, happens all the time, and shouldn’t.  It’s not intended for those who are either unfamiliar with the realities of criminal law or don’t realize that criminal defense lawyers already have a certain familiarity with the subject matter.

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