A former University of La Verne student is facing criminal charges after authorities say she made a series of fake threats that roiled the campus and forced classes to be canceled for a day, authorities said.
Anayeli DominguezPena, 25, of Ontario was arrested Monday and has been charged with making criminal threats and filing a false claim for state victim compensation benefits — both felonies. She also was charged with internet or electronic impersonation, a misdemeanor, and six misdemeanor counts of filing a false police report, according to the La Verne Police Department.
She remained in custody Tuesday morning in lieu of $200,000 bail, jail records show.
The arrest stems from an investigation La Verne police launched in February 2019 in response to reported threats that were directed at the university, an affiliated student group, its members and DominguezPena herself, authorities said.
“The investigation concluded that the suspect acted alone and no other members of the student group were involved with the criminal acts,” police officials wrote in a statement.
Most of the threats came via text messages or emails and eventually escalated to the point that the university canceled classes on March 1, 2019, citing “two reports of hate crimes targeted at members of the student body.” Among the incidents investigated was a backpack emitting smoke in a car at a dormitory parking lot, police said.
The reported threats also used the logo of a fraternity “to focus suspicion on the fraternity and its president,” but no evidence was found tying them to the crimes, police said.
The incident sent a shock wave through the university community, which at one point came together for a candlelight vigil following what officials initially believed to be “racially motivated hate crimes.”
“The actions of the accused, if proven true, threatened to undermine the sincere and necessary work of addressing the very real issues of race and social justice that persist locally and nationally,” university President Devorah Lieberman said in a statement. “We will not be deterred in that work. We are committed to moving forward together here at the University of La Verne to make positive changes on our campuses and in our community.”
DominguezPena received a bachelor’s in child development from the university in 2018 and was in her first year in the higher education administration master’s program at the time of the incidents, according to spokesman Rod Leveque. She is not currently enrolled, he added.
Leveque said the group allegedly targeted by the threats “was not an official student group recognized or funded by the university, but rather a self-organized collection of students.” He declined to name the group or the fraternity whose logo was linked to the threats.
Officials said the university has taken a number of steps in the past year to demonstrate its “commitment to diversity and inclusion” — including mandating diversity training for faculty and staff, offering workshops, requiring training on unconscious biases and equitable practices for those serving on search committees and opening the Ludwick Center for Spirituality, Cultural Understanding and Community Engagement.
Such efforts will continue, officials added.
“The university has zero tolerance for hateful acts or related misconduct, and any member of the campus community found to have engaged in such behavior will be dealt with in accordance with university policy,” the school wrote in a statement. “The university will also continue to cooperate with the La Verne Police Department and other law enforcement partners in this investigation and any related criminal prosecution.”