Investigators Pose As Journalists During News Conference - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Investigators Pose As Reporters During News Conference With Arrested Parents

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"It's mind-boggling. And it's shameful."

That's state representative Angel Cruz (D-Philadelphia), reacting to our revelation that operatives from the Montgomery County District Attorney's office attended a news conference in his district office, posing as journalists- to record audio and video of a pair of criminal defendants telling their story.

"If you don't bring it to my attention," Cruz told FOX 29's Bruce Gordon, "I would have never known, because when they came there, they all identified themselves as reporters."

First, a little background:

Hamlet and Olesia Garcia are charged with theft of service- accused of sending their 5-year old daughter to a Lower Moreland kindergarten last year, even though the family lives across the border- in Philadelphia's Somerton section.

Last Thursday, the couple sought to explain themselves at a news conference held in Cruz's district office.

FOX 29 has learned that two male staffers from the DA's office arrived moments before the event and were asked by a Cruz staffer whether they were with us- meaning FOX 29's Gordon and his photographer.

One of the men answered "yes," and the pair stayed to record the news conference.

"Unacceptable," said Cruz when notified of the ruse by Gordon.

"Unacceptable on behalf of the district attorney. How dare they come in and disrespect when I open my doors!"

Garcia's attorney was unavailable for comment Thursday, but news of this undercover operation did not seem to rattle his co-counsel.

"It's surprising. It is," attorney Michael Kotik told our reporter. "But I don't think it's anything that we're too concerned about. Our client really has nothing to hide, so I don't think it's going to affect their case."

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman declined to talk to us on camera. But by phone, the DA called the news conference a "public event" and said it was "entirely appropriate for us to be there."

Ferman said if a criminal defendant is going to make statements, "we're going to try to capture what they say."

Cruz's response?

"It's a shame that the DA has to stoop that low to disrespect someone when all you had to do is say, 'I'm from the DA's office. I want to come in.' Could have been invited."

So Cruz would have let them in?

"Absolutely!" he said. "We didn't have anything to hide!"

Reached by phone late Thursday, Hamlet Garcia said he has- from the very beginning- asked to explain himself to the Lower Moreland school board and offered to pay whatever out-of-district tuition was owed.

He says both the request and the offer were ignored, and he and his wife were hit with felony charges.

The couple faces formal arraignment next Wednesday.

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