Feds: HIV-Positive Shelter Worker Sexually Abused Immigrant Kids

Southwest Key, largest operator of US immigrant youth shelters, also plagued with other allegations
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2018 2:03 PM CDT
Feds: HIV-Positive Shelter Worker Sexually Abused Immigrant Kids
Buildings that house juveniles and operations on the grounds of Southwest Key Campbell, a shelter for children who've been separated from their parents in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 28, 2018, are seen during a visit by first lady Melania Trump.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

While the controversy surrounding immigrant children separated from their parents at the US border continues to swirl, the AP reports on troublesome news out of a shelter outside Phoenix. Per federal authorities, Levian Pacheco, who used to work for Southwest Key's Casa Kokopelli facility in Mesa, has pleaded not guilty to nearly a dozen sex offenses against at least eight immigrant boys, as originally detailed in ProPublica. Pacheco, 25, who court documents indicate is HIV-positive, is accused of performing oral sex on two of the teen boys, one of which he tried to anally rape, as well as of groping a half-dozen other teens through their clothes. The incidents were alleged to have taken place between August 2016 and July 2017. All of the victims were unaccompanied minors, though it's not clear if they were separated from their parents or came to the US alone.

ProPublica goes into disturbing detail on accusations from each of Pacheco's eight alleged victims; records indicate "a couple" of the boys have requested HIV tests. ProPublica also documents other alleged instances of sexual abuse, fondling (by workers and other children), and runaways at sites run by Southwest Key, the biggest immigrant youth shelter operator in the US. The AP notes one of those cases: A former Southwest Key worker at a different facility than the one Pacheco worked at has been accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl. The alleged incident involving Fernando Magaz Negrete is said to have taken place June 27 in the girl's bedroom. In a statement, Southwest Key addresses the abuse allegations, outlining its hiring process and how it educates kids to protect themselves, noting, "Our number one priority ... is to keep the children in our care safe." (More border separations stories.)

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