Cicero police are searching for more victims of sexual assault after a church employee allegedly engaged in sexual acts and sexual conduct with several juveniles.
Juan David Ferreras, who was employed at Sonido De Alabanza Church in Cicero, is accused of engaging in sexual acts with at least six juvenile victims between 9 and 17 years old while he worked as a youth minister, photographer and teacher at the church, police said.
Police believe the sexual acts took place over the last six years at numerous locations including the church, Ferreras’ apartment and at two camps where he ran youth retreats for Sonido De Alabanza Church, according to Deputy Supt. Jose Gonzalez.
“He had a role of authority within the church,” Gonzalez said. “He gained the trust of young boys, at the time between the ages of 9 to 17 years old, and again then used this position of authority to then perform these acts on these boys.”
A company handling the church's media relations, however, claims Ferreras was employed as a secretary and had no other job responsibilities.
“The Sonido de Alabanza church leadership and its pastors are fully cooperating with Cicero authorizes in the investigation of a former employee charged with allegedly abusing juveniles," Pastor Esdras Ferreras said in a statement, "and we will pray for repentance and healing as Jesus commands us.”
Ferreras, 43, of the 5700 block of West 35th Street, was charged with felony aggravated criminal sexual abuse, two counts of criminal sexual assault, sexual exploitation of a child, indecent solicitation of a child, four counts of distribution of harmful material, and battery following a criminal sexual abuse investigation, according to authorities.
Supt. Bernard Harrison said police are reaching out to identify more victims and are asking individuals who may have experienced sexual assault involving Ferreras to contact the Cicero Police Department.
Gonzalez said information given to police indicates there are two or three more victims that have not come forward, and police believe there may be more.
“It’s not going to be easy for these boys to come forward on their own,” Gonzalez said. “I give credit to these young boys that did come forward to tell their story, again it’s not easy, but they did. If there’s other people out there that need our help we’re asking that they come forward and call us and we’ll absolutely do everything that we can.”
As the investigation continues, Harrison asked that parents talk to their sons and daughters about the incident to see if their child may have been victimized.
“We all know that down the road these assaults on young children carry into the psyche throughout their adult years and we’d like to put a stop to that right now and help these kids get some help before they get further victimized,” Harrison said.
Anyone with information or questions on the incident can call Gonzalez at (708) 652-2130 ext. 348.