An associate pastor at a church in Norwalk arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting more than 20 female parishioners allegedly told his victims the sex acts were a necessary part of using "healing hands."
Jorge Juan Castro, 53, was arrested last Friday on allegations that during his eight years as associate pastor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church in Norwalk, he repeatedly sexually assaulted at least 20 parishioners. He told the alleged victims who questioned the sex acts that they were part of the faith-healing process, said L.A. County Sheriff's Capt. Robert Esson.
"He claimed to have healing hands and ulitized that process to eventually sexually assault them," Esson said. "He preyed upon them from a trust position. He warned them they'd be the subject of ridicule in the church if they told others."
Castro also allegedly threatened to have the women — who ranged in age from 18 to 39 — deported if they spoke out, Esson added.
Esson said the alleged crimes stretch from October 2004 to September 2012. Detectives in the Special Victims Unit began investigating Castro April 8 when a person who many of the alleged victims had confided in informed authorities and convinced some to speak to detectives.
Detectives know of some 20 victims in the mostly Spanish-speaking congregation had allegedly been assaulted by the pastor. Several victims provided evidence to detectives and their allegations led to the charges, said sheriff's Sgt. Al Garcia.
Church leaders removed Castro from the church upon learning of the investigation, Esson said.
"The church and the senior pastor here worked with us. ... We've been to services and spoken [to the parishioners]. We assured everyone they need not be concerned about deportation," Esson said. "This is about this pastor's crimes."
After surveillance by undercover major-crimes detectives, Castro was arrested Sept. 13 at his home in Norwalk and booked on charges of rape, penetration by a foreign object and oral copulation. He is already charged with six felony counts, but that number is expected to rise.
Castro is being held in lieu of $2-million bail after a court appearance earlier this week.
Castro came to the United States from Argentina in 2004. Soon after, the alleged sex crimes began, Esson said.
Authorities in Riverside County are now also investigating his term at a church in Moreno Valley, which has been alerted, Esson said.
"He has a large number of victims and we suspect there are more. We'd like many more of those victims to come forward to us. They have nothing to fear," Esson said.
Esson said anyone with information can contact the detectives at (877)710-5273 or email Specialvictims@lasd.org or anonymously call (800) 222-TIPS or text the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637)