A child care worker at an Arizona shelter for immigrant children facing deportation has been convicted of sexually abusing teenagers under his supervision, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Levian D. Pacheco, 25, of Phoenix, was convicted Friday of seven counts of abusive sexual contact and three counts of sexual abuse of minors, federal prosecutors said in a news release. Pacheco will be sentenced Dec. 3.
“Ensuring the safety of all individuals held in federal custody is of utmost importance to this office,” Elizabeth A. Strange, the first assistant United States attorney for the District of Arizona, said in the statement. “These crimes will not be tolerated.”
The jury found that Pacheco performed oral sex on two boys, attempted to force one to sodomize him and groped six others, according to the Arizona Republic, a newspaper in Phoenix. The boys ranged in age from 15 to 17, and the abuse occured over an 11-month period from 2016 to 2017.
Pacheco is HIV-postive.
The abuse occured at Southwest Key’s Casa Kokopelli detention facility in Mesa, Arizona, where minors who entered the country illegally, unaccompanied by an adult, are held pending the outcome of federal deportation proceedings against them. Pacheco was in charge of supervising the minors.
Southwest Key is a federal contractor and one of the largest operators in the secretive, billion-dollar business of detaining, transporting and supervising immigrants who crossed the southern border illegally, according to the New York Times.
Another employee at a separate Southwest Key facility, Casa Campbell in Phoenix, has also been charged with sexual abuse. The worker, Fernando Magaz Negrete, 32, was arrested in late July after he was seen kissing and fondling a 14-year-old girl in June, as previously reported by Oxygen.com.
Pacheco’s crimes were first reported by ProPublica, a national, nonprofit investigative news organization.
Detention officials first learned that Pacheco abused a boy when a teenaged victim told a teacher that a staffer had entered his room while he was sleeping and touched his penis. The teen then told his roommate about the incident and that boy told investigators that the same staffer did the same thing to him.
Eventually, investigators found six more boys Pacheco abused.
Southwest Key was cited by the Arizona Department of Health Services in 2017 for failing to complete background checks, including fingerprinting, to ensure that its employees were not convicted criminals, Pro Publica reported.
Pacheco worked for nearly four months without a complete background check, though when it was finally completed officials found nothing.