Shelter worker sentenced to 19 years in prison for sexually abusing migrant boys

A former youth care worker has been sentenced to 19 years in prison for sexually abusing teenage boys at a migrant shelter in Arizona, the Justice Department said.

Levian Pacheco, 25, of Phoenix was convicted last year on seven counts of abusive sexual contact with a ward and three counts of sexual abuse of a ward.

The abuse occurred between August 2016 and July 2017 at Southwest Key’s Casa Kokopelli facility in Mesa, court records show. It was part of the US government’s network of privately run facilities intended to care for unaccompanied minors, according to court documents.

Pacheco began working there in May 2016.

The seven boys he was convicted of abusing, some on multiple occasions, were between 15 and 17, according to court documents. They were being held in detention pending possible deportation, and Pacheco, a youth care worker, supervised the minors, the Justice Department said.

Pacheco touched six of the children’s genitalia over their clothes, performed oral sex on two boys and attempted to have anal sex with one of them, court documents said.

Pacheco’s prison sentence is set to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release, the department said Friday.

U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan increased Pacheco’s sentence because he exposed the victims to the HIV virus, officials said.

CNN has reached out to Pacheco’s attorneys for comment.

Southwest Key replied to a request for comment, saying they still stand with a statement they released in September following Pacheco’s conviction.

“We are grieved that abuse occurred in one of our shelters and, with the victims, take comfort in justice having been served. As an organization, we believe in transparency, Testimony at trial clearly showed that when we learned of possible abuse, we acted immediately by calling law enforcement and suspending the individual involved,” the statement said.

“We then worked closely with law enforcement and the US Attorney’s office throughout the investigation and the trial and will continue to do so as this case proceeds to sentencing. We continue to make the safety of the children our highest priority.”

The nonprofit group runs migrant children’s shelters in several states, including Arizona, Texas and California.

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