A federal judge in New York has dismissed a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed The Center for Investigative Reporting forged her signature in an interview release.

Citing fabricated allegations and the rejected testimony of a handwriting analyst, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled in a published opinion that the plaintiff, Erica Almeciga, “perpetrated a fraud on the Court by pressing critical and serious allegations that she knew to be false.”

Rakoff ruled that there was no proof of Almeciga’s allegation that producers forged her signature giving them permission to broadcast her on-camera interview in a documentary on Los Zetas, a notoriously violent Mexico-based drug trafficking group. He also found that producer Bruce Livesey and co-producer Josiah Hooper did not promise to protect her identity.

Rakoff wrote in his ruling that the testimony of handwriting analyst Wendy Carlson was “too problematic.” He also questioned the overall credibility of handwriting analysis.

“It is hardly surprising that Carlson’s expert report reads more like a series of subjective observations than a scientific analysis,” Rakoff wrote. “For decades, the forensic document examiner community has essentially said to courts, ‘Trust us.’ And many courts have. But that does not make what the examiners do science.”

Almeciga sued CIR after she appeared in a 2013 documentary, “I was a Hitman for Miguel Treviño.” The documentary included an interview with her former romantic partner, Rosalio Reta, and his role as a teenage assassin for the Zetas cartel. Reta is serving a decadeslong prison sentence in Woodville, Texas.

Almeciga claimed that she was humiliated and later faced threats because of her appearance in the documentary, which aired on CIR’s YouTube channel and the Spanish-language network Univision. Rakoff wrote that Almeciga “is not a remotely credible witness and her allegations collapse under scrutiny.”

Rakoff cited her use of social media to promote her involvement in the documentary around the time of the broadcast. He also highlighted that Almeciga did not raise concerns until nearly a year after the documentary aired. She claimed that she was not responsible for the post on Twitter, asserting that her account had been hacked – a claim Rakoff described as dubious.

Andrew Becker can be reached at abecker@cironline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ABeckerCIR.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.