A Southern California church pastor accused of sexually abusing more than 20 female parishioners and preying on their vulnerability as undocumented immigrants has been arrested, and investigators are encouraging victims to come forward.
Jorge Juan Castro, 53, was arrested Sept. 13 at his Norwalk home, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Castro allegedly sexually abused, threatened and intimidated more than 20 women – ranging in age from 18 to 39 – who attended Las Buenas Nuevas Church in Norwalk.
Castro, who moved to the Los Angeles area from Argentina in 2004, was an associate and counselor at the church, detectives said. He would frequently visit parishioners at their homes.
“During that counseling session, he would perform certain acts with them in the name of God,” said Sgt. Al Garcia, with the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
Requests for comment from the Castro family by NBC4 and its sister station Telemundo52 were denied Thursday.
Many of the alleged victims are Spanish-speaking immigrants in the country illegally, the LA County Sheriff’s Department said.
“The suspect allegedly preyed upon the victims’ vulnerability,” the department said. “He did this by invoking fear by threatening to tell the victims if they reported him he would have the victims deported, while additionally threatening to expose the victims to public embarrassment and ridicule.”
An anonymous tipster told authorities about the suspected abuse after more than 20 women told that anonymous third party about the allegations, detectives said.
So far, just a handful of alleged victims have come forward and investigators are urging the rest to call them.
A neighbor said Castro is a father of three and described the suspect as a nice neighbor who seemed happy.
He faces six felony charges of rape, oral copulation and penetration by a foreign object. His bail has been set at $2 million.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau detectives at 877-710-5273 or email SpecialVictims@lasd.org – se habla Español.
Anonymous tips can be reported to LA Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), by texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org
NBC4's Gordon Tokumatsu contributed to this report.
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