Florencia Renderos Morales pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for covering up “sexual misconduct” at a Tennessee shelter for immigrant children

A woman pleaded guilty Aug. 14 in the Eastern District of Tennessee to obstruction of justice charges following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.

Florencia Renderos Morales, 24, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for the cover-up of “sexual misconduct directed at resident minors in her late teens” that she engaged in with minors at La Casa de Sydney, a housing facility for undocumented and unaccompanied immigrant minor children located in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

As part of his plea agreement, Renderos avoided a federal grand jury indictment regarding his activities at the shelter.

Federal and local authorities initiated an investigation into the conduct of Renderos and others at The Sydney House.

The woman became aware of the investigation “and contacted others involved about ways to evade detection,” DHS said in the statement.

She also “spoke about the person she believed had reported her conduct to authorities and urged a minor former resident of The Sydney House to delete electronic evidence that was relevant to the investigation.”

“Taking advantage of defenseless individuals, regardless of their citizenship, will result in serious consequences,” said Special Agent Rana Saoud of the DHS Homeland Security Investigations division.

Renderos now faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release, plus fines of $500,000. The sentencing hearing has been set for January 12, 2024.

In May 2021, the scandal over The Sidney House erupted after minors housed at the shelter in Chattanooga filed complaints related to sexual abuse.

Police arrested three workers, including Renderos, in July of that year. Following the investigation, the state of Tennessee closed the facility and withdrew the license of The Baptiste Group (TBG), which operated the shelter.

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