A man who worked for years at a Nogales charter school while under suspicion of having sexually abused children in California was arrested by local authorities last week on a warrant issued out of Los Angeles.
Arturo “Pastel” Mireles is charged with seven counts of lewd acts upon a child and one count of continuous sexual abuse with allegations of substantial sexual conduct with a victim under the age of 11, according to spokesman Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The crimes were allegedly committed from 1988 to 1992, Santiago added.
Mireles was arrested in Nogales and booked into the Santa Cruz County jail on Oct. 18. His bond is set at either $1.5 million or $1.05 million – the available court documents list conflicting amounts.
A group called LAdoss Comite, short for Los Angeles Committee for Defense of Sacred and Safe Spaces, alleges that Mireles sexually abused three girls more than 20 years ago, and says the victims have been seeking justice for decades.
The group alleges that Mireles took advantage of his former leadership role with the California-based Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc dance group to assault the girls.
Joel Garcia, an advocate for LAdoss Comite, expressed hope that Mireles’ arrest in Nogales signals long-awaited progress toward justice.
“It’s significant enough that he was arrested because it silences a lot of doubts that have been around in relation to his actions,” Joel Garcia told the NI on Tuesday. “It’s a great step in helping a healing process begin… in beginning the process that will finally bring to light what he did.”
It was unclear how long Mireles had been living in Nogales, but he was affiliated for a number of years with the K-8 charter school Mexicayotl Academy as an instructor and leading member of its Aztec dance troupe.
According to Joel Garcia, one of the alleged victims reached out to Mexicayotl Academy upon learning that Mireles had been hired at the school’s Nogales campus, but he wasn’t sure what the school’s response had been at the time.
A document posted to the LADoss website includes a letter reportedly sent to the Arizona Department of Education in 2003 by an organization called La Congregación de las Danzas Aztecas en Aztlán, which alerts the ADE to allegations against Mireles. In the letter, the organization said it had notified Mexicayotl Academy of the allegations in August 2000.
Baltazar Garcia, director of Mexicayotl Academy, did not respond to multiple phone calls and an email this week seeking details on Mireles’ employment there, and comment on when school officials became aware of the allegations against him. School principal Veronika Pasos-Garcia also did not respond to a phone call on Tuesday, and school personnel said Garcia was not available when an NI reporter went to Mexicayotl Academy on Wednesday afternoon to seek in-person comment.
The two finally appeared and agreed to release a written statement – but not to be interviewed – after the reporter began talking to parents outside of school premises.
The written statement, signed by both Garcia and Pasos-Garcia, says:
“Mexicayotl Academy follows all state and federal laws and internal policies as part of our employment process. It has always been the school’s policy to investigate all allegations pertaining to employees. The school followed all policies throughout Arturo Mireles’ employment.”
While Garcia, citing personnel confidentiality, declined to share the date that Mireles was hired at Mexicayotl, the written statement clarified that Mireles’ contract was terminated in April 2015 and has since not had any interaction with the school.
The written statement also said that “Mireles was never the leader of Mexicayotl Academy’s Danza Mexico troop,” an apparent reference to a story posted online by the NI that had referred to him as such.
The available court documents list Mireles’ work status as “unemployed” at the time of his arrest.
The documents also show that Mireles expressed his intention to contest his extradition to California during a hearing Monday at Santa Cruz County Superior Court. A follow-up hearing was scheduled for Nov. 12.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Clark.)