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Lawsuit Alleges CMS Knew About Volunteer's Background Before Abuse Arrest

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A new lawsuit alleges Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools knew of a Spanish-language volunteer’s criminal background years before he was accused of sexually assaulting a first-grader last year.

According to the Charlotte Observer, public documents from a new lawsuit show CMS investigators found at least two felony arrests and a criminal conviction that had been overturned on appeal when the district conducted a background check of 54-year-old Ricardo Mata in 2013. 

The documents also show two incidents in which Mata was suspected of molesting young students, one of them at Matthews Elementary. Beginning in the late 90s, Mata ran the after-school PlaySpanish program. By 2013, it was in as many as 15 CMS schools.

According to documents from the lawsuit shared with the Observer, it appears school leaders did nothing to limit Mata’s access to hundreds of the district’s youngest children after discovering his criminal background.

After his arrest in April 2018 on charges of indecent liberties with a child involving a first-grader at Eastover Elementary, then-Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said Mata passed the background check employees and volunteers are required to undergo because Wilcox said he had no prior criminal charges.

Mata is in jail and is scheduled to go to trial in January.