A custodian at Saguaro High School accused of raping a 14-year-old girl on the Scottsdale campus is an illegal immigrant from Mexico and shouldn’t have been eligible to work in the United States, an immigration official said Wednesday.
Russell Ahr, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the paperwork that Roberto Lemus-Retana provided to ABM Janitorial Services, the company that contracts with the Scottsdale Unified School District, is counterfeit.
Or, there is a possibility Lemus-Retana was using someone else’s name and Social Security number, Ahr said.
The school district wasn’t aware Lemus-Retana was an illegal immigrant until speaking with the Tribune on Wednesday evening, said Dave Peterson, the district’s chief financial officer.
However, the district had already discussed severing ties with ABM, Peterson said. The district is waiting for investigations to be complete before making any decisions about its relationship with the company.
Since the incident, the district has run its own background check on Lemus-Retana’s Social Security number, and asked Scottsdale police to do the same, Peterson said. But neither the district’s nor the police’s background check indicated he was in the country illegally, Peterson said.
The district had contacted ICE to look into Lemus-Retana’s immigration status, before the Tribune called, Peterson said.
Lemus-Retana had cleared a background check on the state level and had provided all the required paperwork to work at ABM, where he was hired July 31, according to Mark Safsten, vice president of safety and risk management for ABM. Safsten also said Lemus-Retana provided his past employment history.
Safsten said Wednesday he couldn’t comment on the latest development involving Lemus-Retana.
“Anyone can go into a swap market and get certified documents,” Ahr said. “Someone gave him a Social Security number, loaned him one, he made one up or he went to the flea market and bought one.”
Lemus-Retana was charged Wednesday with seven felony counts of sexual assaultrelated offenses with a minor and is being held without bail in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix.
The charges stem from his arrest about 5:30 p.m. Friday at Saguaro High School. Police said the arrest came after the freshman girl told them Lemus-Retana made unwanted advances to her in a locked bathroom and forced her to have sex in a computer classroom.
Lemus-Retana admitted to having sex with the girl, but said it was consensual and she told him she was 17, according to a court document.
The incident, which has shaken students at the school, has caused district administrators to rethink security measures. For instance, custodians are now required to work in pairs.
Lemus-Retana had been arrested in Mohave County on suspicion of driving under the influence May 14, and supplied a driver’s license at the time. He was removed by U.S. Border Patrol agents four days later from that county’s jail to be returned to Mexico, Ahr said. The ICE spokesman could not confirm that Lemus-Retana left the United States.
Lemus-Retana didn’t have a Social Security number and was not a U.S. citizen when he was arrested May 14, and he shouldn’t have had a valid one when he was hired by ABM, Ahr said.
Peterson said the school district became aware of the DUI arrest this week, but a misdemeanor DUI would not have prevented Lemus-Retana from working in the district.
The district has met with ABM multiple times since Friday and will meet with them again today, Peterson said.
Before the incident, ABM merely had to certify they had completed background checks on employees, Peterson said. That practice is already changing.
“We are requiring an independent, outside agency verify their results and send them directly to us,” Peterson said.
While the district can’t dictate which company ABM uses to verify the background checks, the district will have to approve which company is picked, Peterson said.
ABM also is required to run new background checks on each of its approximately 130 employees working in the Scottsdale district and have those background checks independently verified by Sept. 8, Peterson said.
It isn’t known at this time how long Lemus-Retana has been in the United States, but Scottsdale police officer David Pubins said in an e-mail to the Tribune this week that Lemus-Retana had committed some offenses as a juvenile.
Phoenix Municipal Court records revealed that Lemus-Retana had failed to appear in court for driving without a valid driver’s license or valid registration when he was 15 years old in March 1996.
The school district has already implemented new security measures at all of its high schools, including adjusting hours of security guards and administrators so they are on campus from 6:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Peterson said.
The district also is looking at additional lighting and video surveillance at the campuses, he added.
However, the district probably won’t require construction workers on campus to go through background checks, Peterson said.
Background checks aren’t feasible since so many construction workers and subcontractors are involved in campus projects, Peterson said.
But the district has construction sites fenced off and enforces a strict policy barring construction workers from having contact with students, he added.