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Ex-case manager found guilty of migrant kid abuse

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – A former case manager at an Orange County shelter for children caught illegally crossing the border was convicted Wednesday of molesting three migrant teen boys, prosecutors said.

A jury found Victor Salazar guilty of four felony counts of lewd acts on a child and two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, Orange County District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami said.

Salazar worked as a case manager at Florence Crittenton Home in Fullerton. The federally contracted facility houses children living in the U.S. without parents, either because their parents have been deported or the child came to the U.S. alone.

Salazar was convicted of molesting the boys in his office between May 2007 and February 2008 while they used his phone to call their families in South or Central America.

More than 6,000 children _ most from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras _ were taken into federal custody in the 2009 fiscal year, under a program overseen by federal health officials. Most of them, like the victims in the case against Salazar, were teenage boys, according to federal statistics.

Salazar was initially accused of sexually abusing six teens, and was charged with four felony counts of lewd acts on a child, three felony counts of oral copulation of a minor and seven misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.

Salazar’s lawyer Lisa Eyanson told jurors that any touching done by her client had no sexual intent, and was intended to comfort the children.

One Guatemalan-born man testified that Salazar touched him between his legs five to 10 times, despite his protests. Now an adult, he said Salazar was in charge of deciding whether he would be placed with a foster family or sent back to Guatemala.

Since Salazar’s arrest, the center in Fullerton has trained staff on child abuse under a special program focused on refugee and immigrant children. The shelter has also installed office doors with windows, enhanced video surveillance and banned one-on-one transport of children by staff.

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