CANANDAIGUA, NY (The Daily Messenger) – An illegal immigrant was sentenced in Ontario County Court on Friday to serve 18 years to life in a New York state prison for taking a 14-year-old Ontario County girl out of the state.
Carlos Vail-Mateo, a 25-year-old Guatemalan citizen who was deported from the U.S. in 2011 and re-entered the country through the Mexican border, was convicted by a jury last month of first-degree kidnapping, a class A-I felony.
Vail-Mateo was arrested by Ontario County sheriff’s deputies last January following an investigation that determined he had taken the teen from her home at around 9 p.m. Dec. 12, 2015. Vail-Mateo then headed south with the youth.
The defendant was known by the victim’s family for approximately 19 months when he left the state with the girl. Ontario County First Assistant District Attorney Jim Ritts pointed out that Vail-Mateo had met them through a church they both attended.
The 14-year-old had become unhappy with her family life and had left her home with Vail-Mateo. No force was used in the incident, but the legal predicament stems from the victim’s age and the fact that he left the state without consent of a legal guardian.
“(Vail-Mateo) picked her up and they took off to Florida,” Ritts said. “I’m not convinced that he wasn’t a part of the reason she was running away. I think it was a relationship he wanted to have with her. I’m sure that was part of it.”
Also, an element of the kidnapping charge includes Vail-Mateo taking the victim for more than 12 hours with the intent to sexually abuse her.
During Friday morning’s sentencing, Monroe County Court Judge Elma Bellini, who acted as the visiting judge for the case due to a scheduling conflict, went into the details of the trip toward Florida.
The defendant had sex with the 14-year-old girl in the back seat of his car “somewhere in Pennsylvania and again somewhere else” along the route, Bellini said.
“The mother called frantically looking for her daughter and you lied to her and said she wasn’t with you,” she added.
Vail-Mateo and the teen were located by members of the Kingsland Police Department in Georgia on Dec. 13, 2015. Authorities successfully tracked the pair through the cellphone signals that relayed off cellphone towers along Vail-Mateo’s route.
Vail-Mateo was taken into custody and placed in jail to await extradition, while the 14-year-old was placed in protective custody and later returned to New York.
Vail-Mateo was picked up in Georgia by Ontario County sheriff’s deputies and brought back to the county without incident.
On Friday, Vail-Mateo spoke to Bellini through an interpreter, apologizing for breaking the law.
“I am not feeling well about the sentence I will receive today, but of course, there’s nothing I can do about that now, so I would like to thank you,” Vail-Mateo relayed through the interpreter. “I would like to end by saying God bless all of you.”
Moments before Bellini handed over the sentence, she referenced a letter written by Vail-Mateo.
“At the end you say, ‘I just want to return home,'” the judge said. “I’m presuming you meant to Guatemala, and I simply don’t believe it. The reason I don’t believe it is because you were deported in 2011, but then you snuck back into the U.S. So you were home, you could have stayed home. It’s only now that you are about to be sentenced that that’s all you want.”
Bellini acknowledged what she imagined was a hard life for Vail-Mateo.
“I wish I could send you back to Guatemala,” the judge said. “I think it would be cheaper for the citizens of the state of New York, but frankly, I don’t have that ability.”
As the case developed, the District Attorney’s Office offered Vail-Mateo a sentence of six to 10 years behind bars in exchange for an admission of guilt. The offer was an extensive difference from the minimum of 15 years to 25 years and the maximum of life he faced with a first-degree kidnapping conviction.
However, the defendant rejected the offer, leading to the trial.
“Not only did you traumatize the 14-year-old with the initial act, but you refused to own up for what you did and re-traumatized her by having her come to court and testify to the facts that occurred, including the facts of the sexual encounters,” Bellini said, and as she spoke, Vail-Mateo hung his head. “I can no longer justify giving you the minimum sentence.”
In addition to the prison term, Vail-Mateo was ordered to pay $1,425 in fines, fees and surcharges, as well as $571 resolution. An order of protection was also issued, preventing Vail-Mateo from having any contact with the youth. Following his potential release from prison, he will be deported back to Guatemala.