Who's liable for that cruel prank call involving the Isabel Celis case?

Who's liable for that cruel prank call involving the Isabel Celis case?

CREATED Jul 23, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- It  was the first prank call involving the Isabel Celis case and it cost the Tucson Police Department thousands of dollars.

Police say two girls, ages 9 and 11, called 911 on Sunday. One of the girls claimed she was Isabel Celis and had been kidnapped.  25 on duty police officers and 3 detectives swarmed their apartment complex at 22nd and Kolb and found the two girls, who admitted they pretended to be Isabel. Police say the girls' mother did not know they made the prank call.

Sgt. Chris Widmer said, "Unfortunately, we are going to take any call we get like that very serious. We're not going to judge it or blow it off. We're going to go all the way with it. And it's going to take a lot of resources."

The prank call was a costly mistake -- to the tune of $4700.

KGUN9 wanted to know what punishment the two girls could face and who could be held liable for the expenses?

Sgt. Chris Widmer said the mother suggested that the two girls be arrested and taken to the Juvenile Detention Center. But Juvenile Court Administrator, Stephen Rubin said, often in these misdemeanor cases, first time offender don't stay very long.

"They would be paper referred to their parents and then the County Attorney would then decide what to do with the charge." Rubin said that process could take a few days.

The Pima County Attorney's office told KGUN9 that they take several factors into account, such as the child's age, history, and intent. But if prosecutors do charge the prankster, the child could go through a diversion program, which is designed to teach kids a lesson. Rubin explained, "That usually includes some form of consequence, restitution, community service or counseling."

The prank call cost the Tucson Police department about $4700.

But KGUN9 wanted to know: What about parents? Should prosecutors hold parents liable?

Tucson police say if parents know about the crank call, they could be arrested. The Pima County Attorney's Office said a state statute, titled False Reporting, can hold the parents responsible for police expenses.

But Sgt. Widmer says TPD usually doesn't go after the public to recover money, especially in cases involving young children. "I think what we need to remember is that these are kids and they made a mistake. Unfortunately the mistake they made included a very sensitive case to us and cost the taxpayers a lot of money and cost us a lot of resources."

Rubin said these cases are few and far between and often children learn their lessons. "The vast majority of kids who go through a diversion process never come back."