Crime

Document: Youth pastor engaged in sexual activity with teen during youth convention at hotel

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - A criminal complaint obtained by ABC-7's New Mexico Mobile Newsroom states a Las Cruces youth pastor allegedly "engaged in sexual intercourse" with a teenager during a youth convention at a Las Cruces Hotel.

Stephen Mendoza Arellano, 30, made his initial appearance Tuesday in federal court in Albuquerque. Federal authorities say Arellano is facing child sexual exploitation and pornography charges, including attempted production of child pornography, enticement of a child to engage in sexual activity and travel to meet a minor to engage in sexual conduct.

Arellano allegedly began communicating with a 15-year-old girl from El Paso "in a sexually explicit manner" beginning in May, the court document states.

Prosecutors say the youth pastor was allegedly aware of the girl's age because he reportedly assisted in making a video for her Sweet 16 birthday party.

The criminal complaint alleges Arellano and the girl used Snapchat to communicate on a daily basis, and that at some point, their communication became sexually explicit. Arellano allegedly sent nude photos of himself to the girl via cellphone messages and requested nude photos of her between May and August.

Arellano allegedly sent the victim text messages stating, "you are so beautiful" and "I want you." During some of the text conversations, Arellano allegedly chatted about some of the sexual activities he would engage in. 

The document further states Arellano traveled from Las Cruces to El Paso "for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse" with the girl, a member of the Apostolic Assembly Church.

During a car ride with the alleged victim,  Arellano allegedly asked the teen how old she was and the victim allegedly replied, "how old do I look?" The court document states Arellano replied, "19" and the victim simply nodded her head without confirming her exact age.

The complaint states Arellano engaged in sexual intercourse with the girl in July and August, including at a youth convention held at the Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces, where he allegedly took a nude photo of the girl with him in bed.

Before the victim left Arellano's hotel room, he asked her to take a shower. The victim allegedly declined, court documents state, saying it would look suspicious if she left her room with dry hair and later returned with wet hair.

The document states the girl took a shower when she returned to her room because "she felt dirty."

Arellano remains in federal custody pending a preliminary hearing and detention hearing, which have yet to be scheduled. Prosecutors say Arellano is an ordained minister for the Apostolic Assembly Church and serves as its District of New Mexico Youth president.

Federal officials said that if convicted on the attempted production of child pornography charge, Arellano faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison. 

If convicted on the enticement charge, Arellano faces a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years and a maximum of life in federal prison.  If convicted on the traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct charge, Arellano faces a maximum of 30 years in federal prison. 


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