A farm that employed the man accused of killing 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts now says they did not use the government E-Verify system to check Cristhian Rivera’s immigration status, which has become a bone of contention following his arrest.
"What we learned in the last 24 hours is that our employee was not who he said he was," Dane Lang, co-owner and manager of Yarrabee Farms said on Wednesday afternoon, according to WHO-TV in Des Moines, Iowa. "And, just within the last four hours, we have come to learn that the Social Security Administration's employment verification service is not the same as E-Verify."
Just one day earlier, Lang had put out a statement in which he said that Rivera, 24, was an employee in good standing who had been vetted through the E-Verify system, a web-based system that allows employers to confirm employees’ ability to work in the United States.
"Our family member, who handles the verification process, believed the systems were the same," said Lang. "They are not the same systems, and we apologize for any confusion that this caused with our earlier statement."
He added that Yarrabee Farms screens applicants through the Social Security Administration's social security number verification service, and not E-Verify. However, he said they will use E-Verify going forward. The Langs, who own the farm, are a prominent Republican family in the area.
Rivera's immigration status has become a hot-button issue. His lawyer Allan Richards, who was sporting an American flag tie in court on Wednesday, claimed that Rivera is not in the U.S. illegally and that people have been jumping to conclusions as he filed for a gag order in the case, the Des Moines Register reported. Not long after Rivera’s arrest on Tuesday, even President Donald Trump called an “illegal alien” during a rally.
"Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members," Richards wrote in Wednesday's filing.
The gag order request, which cited Yarrabee Farms' initial statement that Rivera was vetted through the E-Verify system, was denied by a Poweshiek District Court judge, the Des Moines Register reported.
Authorities in Iowa described Rivera as an undocumented immigrant after his arrest on Tuesday. It immediately added fuel to the immigration debate that has been raging in the United States for the past few years.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services told Fox News that Rivera did not make any DACA requests and no DACA grants were given to him.
“We have found no record in our systems indicating he has any lawful immigration status,” they told the publication.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed a detainer to make sure Rivera was not released from prison. He is currently being held on a $5 million cash bond only.
[Photo: Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.