GILBERT, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) — A Gilbert man is facing felony fraud and sex abuse charges after claiming he had Down syndrome and required special care, including diaper changes and assistance bathing.
Police arrested Paul Anthony Menchaca, 30, at his parents’ home last Thursday.
The Chandler Unified School District has confirmed that Menchaca used to work for the district. Officials say he worked there for the last two years in support staff positions, and that he resigned Aug. 31.
The district clarified that he didn’t work with students directly without the supervision of certified staff.
A letter from Bogle Junior High principal Nathan Fairchild reads:
I’m writing to inform you that Paul Menchaca, a former aide in Ms. DeMann’s classroom at Bogle, was arrested last Thursday evening at his home in Gilbert. His arrest was not related to his work with children at Bogle Junior High or any other CUSD school. He resigned the week previous and is no longer employed by the school district. Though his arrest did not involve any of our students, we had previously notified the parents of the classroom where he had worked as an aide and wanted you to be aware as well.
According to investigators, the first of Menchaca’s three alleged victims, all women, responded in early May to an ad on CareLinx.com, which describes itself as “a nationwide caregiver marketplace” designed to help families “easily find, hire, manage and pay licensed caregivers online.”
Investigators said the caregiver agreed to be paid by somebody named Amy, supposedly the mother of a man with Down syndrome. That man was later identified as Menchaca. The caregiver said she provided the requested care – help bathing and diaper change – on 30 separate occasions at places in Gilbert and Chandler, not Menchaca’s home.
According to court documents, that caregiver recalled five “… separate incidents when [Menchaca] aggressively said his genitals were not cleaned enough ….”
The second caregiver was referred by the first in July. Police said she also agreed to be paid by Amy for services including diaper changes.
The third caregiver was referred by the first two in August; she agreed to the same terms.
All three caregivers communicated with Amy about instructions and payment arrangements via text. That was their only form of interaction with her.
“’Amy’ asked all three victims to ‘punish’ [Menchaca] when he soiled his diaper by putting him in timeout and taking away his privileges,” according to the probable cause for arrest statement. “All three victims were paid in cash by [Menchaca] when they picked him up and dropped him off from neutral locations.”
The caregivers provided investigators with Amy’s phone number; detectives determine it belonged to Menchaca.
Police said the first caregiver became “suspicious of [Menchaca’s] behavior” earlier this month and followed him from where she had dropped him off to his home.
“[The victim] was greeted by [Menchaca’s] actual mother and father and discovered [Menchaca] did not have Down syndrome and did not require diaper changes,” reads the probable cause statement.
Police said Menchaca “admitted to lying to them about his mental condition” when the three caregivers confronted him.
All three of the victims provided statements for Menchaca’s initial court appearance; one of them spoke, requesting a “substantial” bond.
“I fear for my safety in regards to that, as well as my family and friends because I did bring my family and friends around him,” she said.
Before allowing Menchaca to speak, Commissioner Michelle Carson advised him that the proceeding was being recorded. It is rare for defendants to speak out during this part of the judicial process.
“Anything you say can and will be held against you in future proceedings,” she said. “You are unrepresented by counsel.”
“I just want to let you know I am special needs,” Menchaca said. “I do have a low IQ level. And … my mom and dad both have paperwork to prove that. And I’m starting to talk to my dad about getting me some help and getting me into a counselor and probably like a rehab center to talk to somebody.”
Menchaca, who has no criminal history, is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 17.
Carson set a secured appearance bond of $15,000, reminding that Menchaca that he cannot have contact with any of the alleged victims if he posts and is released.
“You must obey the terms of any order of protection or order against harassment that’s issued or may be issued in the future,” she said.
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