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‘I’m so irresponsible. Yesterday it felt amazing.’ Suburban woman from Brazil arrested in U.S. Capitol breach

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 2/17/2022 Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune

A west suburban woman was arrested Wednesday on federal charges alleging she illegally entered the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot more than a year ago, then texted with a friend the next day who told her, “Don’t be sad. Be Prepared. We are all f-----.”

Leticia Vilhena Ferreira, 32, a Brazilian national who lives in Indian Head Park, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington with misdemeanor counts of unlawfully entering a restricted government building and disorderly conduct on U.S. Capitol grounds, court records show.

The complaint was made public Wednesday in advance of her initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Chicago. She was ordered released on her own recognizance and ordered to appear on the case in Washington on Feb. 22. No lawyer was listed for Ferreira on the public docket.

Ferreira’s arrest brought the number of Illinoisans charged so far in the Capitol breach to 24. The ongoing investigation has been described by prosecutors as the largest criminal investigation in the country’s history.

According to the complaint, Ferreira was seen on surveillance footage from Jan. 6, 2021, entering the Capitol with the mob dressed in a camouflage-colored jacket and a red beanie bearing then-President Trump’s name.

The security videos showed Ferreira made her way to the Capitol Crypt, where she was present “when excited rioters screamed ‘Our House’ and ‘Stop the Steal,’” the complaint stated.

“Around that time, rioters physically rushed the U.S. Capitol Police Officers who tried to prevent the further advance of the rioters within the Capitol building – however Ferreira did not appear to have participated in any assault on officers,” the complaint stated.

In an interview with the FBI at her suburban home last April, Ferreira told agents she is a citizen of Brazil and present in the U.S. on a work visa and therefore was not able to vote.

“However, Ferreira followed the news of the 2020 election and wanted to travel to Washington, D.C. to see President Donald Trump speak,” the complaint stated.

Ferreira said she later followed the crowd from the site of Trump’s speech into the Capitol building, where she stayed for about 20 minutes and took photographs and videos of the event with her mobile phone. She shared some of the videos and photos with agents during the interview, according to the complaint.

The day after the riot, Ferreira and her friend, who was also in the crowd that day, exchanged worried text messages about the fallout, according to the complaint. Ferreira texted that she’d been walking with a man and his two sons and never noticed in the moment that people were breaking through barriers and fighting with the police.

“I’m so irresponsible” Ferreira texted. “Yesterday it felt amazing.”

When Ferreira asked if the friend thought “they will go after all the people walking in the Capitol area,” the friend allegedly responded, “Don’t be sad. Be prepared. We are all f-----.”

Nationwide, more than 725 people have been arrested in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on charges stemming from the Capitol breach, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Like Ferreira, most of those arrested in Illinois have been charged with misdemeanors that do not allege they participated in any violence. Among those charged with trespassing are a Chicago cop, two North Shore brothers, and an HVAC repairman from Chicago’s Northwest Side.

In Dec., James Robert Elliott, 24, of Aurora, was charged with felony counts alleging he used a flagpole to assault officers while illegally on the Capitol grounds.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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