A man authorities say has been living in Carthage in recent years was sentenced to five years in prison this week after pleading guilty to sexually molesting two girls under the age of 12.

Ervin G. Carreto-Guzman, 35, pleaded guilty at a hearing Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court to two reduced counts of first-degree child molestation in a plea agreement with the prosecutor's office.

Carreto-Guzman's plea deal called for concurrent five-year terms, and Circuit Judge Gayle Crane assessed the defendant the agreed-upon length of sentences. He had been facing two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy in the case, a charge that carries a punishment range of five years to life in prison.

The charges were filed against Carreto-Guzman in 2019 after a Missouri State Highway Patrol investigation of information first received by Seneca police.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, the two girls in the case had disclosed in forensic interviews that Carreto-Guzman sexually abused them on multiple occasions over a five- or six-month period in 2012 and 2013 in Carthage. One of the girls told investigators that he first began touching her inappropriately in 2011.

During initial questioning by a state patrol investigator in April 2019, the defendant denied ever having sexually abused the girls, according to the affidavit. However, during a second interview in June 2019 at the Carthage police station, he purportedly admitted to sleeping in the same bed with the girls and suggested he may have "accidentally" touched them "while playing or wrestling."

The affidavit states that the investigation determined that Carreto-Guzman appeared to have been living in the U.S. illegally in that the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement had no record of him.

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