A federal judge sentenced Levian Pacheco, who sexually abused several teenage boys at a shelter in Mesa for migrant youth, to 19 years in prison and a lifetime supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Arizona.
Pacheco, 25, is appealing the sentence to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Federal prosecutors alleged Pacheco touched the penis of six boys through their clothing and performed oral sex on two boys. Pacheco, who denied the allegations, also tried to have a boy penetrate him anally. The victims were between ages 15 and 17, and the abuse happened from August 2016 to July 2017 at a Southwest Key facility in Mesa licensed to serve 319 children. Pacheco was a youth care worker there.
He was arrested in August 2017.
A federal prosecutor told the court in a January 2018 hearing that Pacheco allegedly encouraged at least one victim to run away with him, and said he would take care him.
Southwest Key facilities house migrant youth who arrived in the country alone or were separated from their parent. The minors are placed in shelters while pending reunification with their families or release to sponsors in the US.
The Arizona Department of Health Services, which licenses 11 Southwest Key shelters as behavioural health facilities for children, inspected the Mesa facility in September 2017. It found three of five employee records it sampled were non-compliant with fingerprinting requirements. In August 2018, an ADHS inspection found Southwest Key “failed to ensure one of 21 sample personnel members provided evidence of freedom from infectious tuberculosis.”
In September 2018, a jury convicted Pacheco of abusing seven teenage boys, some of them on more than one occasion. Specifically, Pacheco was convicted of seven counts of abusive sexual contact with a ward and three counts of sexual abuse of a ward.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (which contracts with facilities like Southwest Key) Office of Inspector General and the Mesa Police Department investigated Pacheco’s case.
ADHS found last August that Southwest Key’s Arizona operations had rampant inefficiencies in its fingerprint and background check records, as required by statute for agencies that service children. The state later moved to revoke all of Southwest Key’s licenses but they quickly reached a settlement in October.
As part of the settlement, Southwest Key closed a shelter in downtown Phoenix (its biggest one in Arizona) and gave up the license for a facility in Youngtown that the federal government had shut down after reports that staff physically abused three minors. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigated those reports, and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is reviewing it for prosecution.
A Senate proposal recently introduced would strengthen background check requirements for facilities like Southwest Key and give ADHS authority to inspect them unannounced.