OGDEN -- What Leah Carson and Teresa Bassett did may have been illegal, but it was creative, says a former Marine who paid the fines for one of the women who was convicted of producing and sending out a list of 1,300 alleged undocumented immigrants.
"They were just trying to get the word out," said Ogden resident Ted Van Meeteren, who paid Carson's fine Thursday. "They had nothing to gain from it."
Carson and Bassett both pleaded guilty earlier last week to their roles in releasing a list of what were purported to be illegal immigrants while the two women were working at the Utah Department of Workforce Services. They compiled the list from people who had applied for benefits, sent it to law enforcement officials and media, and attached a note demanding the deportation of those listed.
Carson is faced with a year of probation and a fine of $440 after pleading guilty to making a false statement by an unemployment compensation agent.
But Van Meeteren said her debt has been paid -- or at least her fine.
Van Meeteren said he went to Midvale Justice Court earlier this week and paid the fine because he has seen fellow veterans who have been let go from projects only to be replaced by illegal workers who are hired at a much lower cost.
"What's going on is not fair," he said. "I don't blame the illegals. They work for peanuts -- they've got no other choice but to work the system. But we can't afford to have any more. We're broke ourselves."
Van Meeteren, the state representative for California-based American Combat Veterans of War, said he initially tried to contact Carson, but was unsuccessful. He then contacted the Midvale court and asked if anyone could pay her fine. Once he found out he could, he went to the courthouse with several veteran friends and paid the fine.
He said he is mostly disappointed with the state and the attorney general.
"He shot the messenger, but didn't listen to the message," he said.
Van Meeteren blamed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for contributing to the number of illegal immigrants in the state. He said this is because they offer so many services to immigrants, in an attempt to be compassionate. He suggests the church research the cost of illegal immigrants for taxpayers -- including schooling, health and welfare services -- and then foot that tab instead.
"That way, they show compassion to both the illegals and the taxpayers," he said.
As for Bassett, Van Meeteren said their group is offering her a cross of gallantry, if she will accept it. He said they have contacted her lawyer, but haven't received a reply.
Bassett pleaded guilty to two felony counts of computer crimes, despite maintaining her innocence, during a hearing in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City last week. She was sentenced to three years of probation and 250 hours of community service.
Van Meeteren said he can see that the state and the women were both right and wrong with this situation, but he felt their sentencing was not unfair.
"I think the punishment was about the best I think they could get out of the situation," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.