ARIZONA NEWS

Worker convicted of sexually abusing minors at Mesa immigrant facility

Sep 10, 2018, 12:29 PM

PHOENIX – A worker at a Mesa facility that houses immigrant children was convicted Friday on multiple sexual abuse charges by a U.S. District court jury in Phoenix.

After a seven-day trial, Levian D. Pacheco, 25, of Phoenix was found guilty on seven counts of abusive sexual contact with a ward and three counts of sexual abuse of a ward. Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 3.

Pacheco was convicted of abusing seven teenage boys between August 2016 and July 2017 at the Casa Kokopelli Southwest Key facility near Country Club Drive and Brown Road. The boys were being held pending possible detention.

Pacheco was supervising the boys as a youth care worker in the facility. Court documents said Pacheco is HIV-positive and some of the victims opted to be tested for the virus.

“This verdict demonstrates our commitment to securing justice for the teenage boys the defendant abused and sends a message to others in positions of trust that these crimes will not be tolerated,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange said in a news release issued Monday.

The case was one of several at facilities that house immigrant minors who either illegally entered the U.S. unaccompanied or were separated from their parents after being detained.

Such shelters are operated by Texas-based Southwest Key and other nonprofit organizations, not the state itself.

They have come under scrutiny since the administration of President Donald Trump introduced a “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in more than 2,900 children being separated from their families, most of whom have since been reunited.

The news website ProPublica published a report in late July that police responded to at least 125 calls reporting sex offenses at shelters that primarily serve immigrant children since 2014.

On Thursday, a nonprofit group called Uncage and Reunite Families held a protest at the Arizona Capitol calling for state and federal agencies to be held accountable for any harm done to children while in custody.

A day later, Arizona’s health services department said in a statement that it had conducted extensive inspections of all 13 Southwest Key facilities and will increase future monitoring.

Southwest Key has said it welcomes more oversight.

In July, 32-year-old Fernando Magaz Negrete, a worker at the Southwest Key facility on Campbell Avenue near 27th Avenue, was arrested for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl.

That was the same facility first lady Melania Trump visited a month earlier when she was in the state touring immigrant housing facilities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Worker convicted of sexually abusing minors at Mesa immigrant facility