An assistant pastor and counselor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church in Norwalk allegedly assaulted at least 20 women in the church's congregation over an eight-year period, preying mostly on undocumented immigrants, L.A. Sheriff's officials reported Thursday.
Sgt. Al Garcia, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's Special Victims Bureau, said Jorge Juan Castro, 54, would threaten to report his victims to immigration authorities if they told anyone what he'd done. He also allegedly told the women they'd be publicly humiliated if they came forward.
"From what we understand, some of the victims went to him for counseling for various reasons, and during that counseling session, he would perform certain acts with them in the name of God," Garcia said.
At some point, Garcia said, the women approached church officials with their allegations and the church's administrator brought the accusations to the sheriff's station in Norwalk.
The department opened an investigation on April 8 and arrested Castro September 13 at his home in Norwalk. Garcia said Castro has so far refused to speak with detectives.
Castro was also listed as an assistant pastor with Oasis Community Church in Riverside. Garcia said he was suspended from both churches after the allegations emerged.
"We know there are more victims," Garcia said. "We need them to know we don't care about their immigration status, we just need them to come forward."