Sting operation nabs 2 after salon services offered during lockdown

Dozens of similar arrests reported across the country as restrictions vary from state to state

Police in Laredo, Texas, conducted a sting operation to catch two women accused of offering salon services at their homes in defiance of the city’s strict orders to social distance during the pandemic, according to several reports.

Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia, 31, and Brenda Stephany Mata, 20, were arrested and charged with violation of emergency management plans and are being held at the Webb County Jail on $500 bond, respectively, according to KGNS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Laredo.

Credit: Webb County Jail

Credit: Webb County Jail

After receiving an anonymous tip last Wednesday, officers with the city’s COVID-19 Taskforce Enforcement disguised themselves as regular customers and scheduled appointments for nail and eyelash services.

Police allege Castro-Garcia then offered her nail services to one of the undercover officers, and she was arrested. Afterward, police said she admitted to running a home nail salon and had been promoting the business on social media.

Mata was later taken into custody after she allegedly agreed to perform eyelash service inside her home for another undercover officer.

The arrests come as protesters around the country are turning out in droves to pressure governors who are taking a cautious approach to reopen such businesses while the outbreak is widening.

But other governors, including Georgia’s Brian Kemp, have been more aggressive and already announced plans to reopen businesses such as salons and ease social distancing restrictions amid the widening outbreak.

Despite that, isolation orders were being fully enforced elsewhere across the country, where similar arrests are being reported.

Charges were dropped against a West Georgia woman who had been exposed to the coronavirus but refused to self-quarantine, authorities said last week.

She was spotted April 7 in Tallapoosa, and citizens called police, who arrested her. She was charged with criminal trespassing.

In North Carolina, a group protesting Gov. Roy Cooper’s restrictions on mass gatherings is seeking legal protection from arrest after one demonstrator was seized at a rally last week.

Cincinnati police reported last week that officers had arrested and charged 10 people, but that dozens of others had received warnings about gathering in large groups.

Five days ago in Steamboat, Colorado, three men spent a night in jail after refusing to leave a friend’s apartment.

Three weeks ago in Malibu, California, a paddle boarder was arrested for violating stay-at-home orders, the Los Angeles Times reported. And 36 miles south, in Manhattan Beach, a surfer was cited and charged $1,000.

Laredo police warned the community that violations of the stay-at-home order would lead to a citation or jail time.

The American Civil Liberties Union is discouraging arrests, saying jail time is potentially more dangerous and could expose detainees to COVID-19 and may disproportionately affect minority communities that are already highly policed, according to Forbes.