FULL STORY: Pastor pleads not guilty to drug sales, gun charges

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RIVERSIDE — Prosecutors charged a pastor this morning with four felonies and a misdemeanor for allegedly selling narcotics out of his Home Gardens church and possessing a stolen pistol.

Anthony Garduno, 51, pastor of Our Lady of Tepeyac, pleaded not guilty to the charges this afternoon in Riverside Superior Court.

A judge set bail for Garduno at $250,000 after denying a request for reduced bail from Garduno’s court-appointed attorney, according to online court records.

Garduno, a self-identified bishop in a small offshoot of the Roman Catholic church, was arrested Tuesday after Riverside County sheriff’s investigators searched his Magnolia Avenue church and found methamphetamines, a stolen pistol, and evidence of possible sexual crimes against children.

Last week a former parishioner told sheriff’s investigators that Garduno sexually assaulted him about four years ago, when the man was 17.

Investigators obtained a warrant to search Garduno’s church after presenting the man’s accusations to a judge.

When investigators searched the church, they found pills believed to be the date-rape drug GHB, which was possibly used by Garduno in sexual assaults, a sheriff’s sergeant said Wednesday.

Tests must be performed on the pills before they can be confirmed as GHB, the sheriff’s sergeant said.

Sheriff’s investigators have urged potential sexual assault victims of Garduno to contact them at 951-955-2600.

Garduno was formerly a Roman Catholic priest, but he left the church about a decade ago following allegations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with a male parishioner, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino said in September.

“I believe it was for inappropriate contact with a parishioner, or an attempt to do so,” said spokesman John Andrews. “It was an adult, somebody I think in a marriage-preparation class.”

Garduno said in an interview last month that in addition to overseeing his Home Gardens church, his duties as a bishop include oversight of a church in Ontario that has its own pastor.

On Sept. 15, Garduno was shot several times during an attempted robbery at his church. Garduno said last month that he still had a bullet lodged in his right arm from the incident.

The five men allegedly responsible for the robbery are also accused of holding up five divers the day of the shooting.

Investigators initially believed Garduno’s church was randomly targeted because of its proximity to a diner, said sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.

But in light of Garduno’s new drug charges investigators are reassessing their original theory, and are examining whether the robbers were targeting the church for drugs and cash, Gutierrez said.

“Where there is drugs there’s usually cash,” Gutierrez said.

The five alleged robbers are set to stand trial in Riverside Superior Court on Monday for the attempted murder of Garduno and several additional felonies.

The defendants include Pomona residents Timothy Jacquemain, 18, Jacob Bushow, 19, and Andrew Swindle, 23, Chino resident Anthony Coleman, 21, and Perris resident Willis Bagley, 38.

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Five robbery defendants (L-R): Pomona residents Timothy Jacquemain, 18, Jacob Bushow, 19, and Andrew Swindle, 23, Chino resident Anthony Coleman, 21, Perris resident Willis Bagley, 38.


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Pastor pleads not guilty to criminal charges; bail set at $250,000

RIVERSIDE — A pastor pleaded not guilty this afternoon in Riverside Superior Court to criminal charges for allegedly selling drugs and possessing a stolen pistol.

Anthony Garduno, 51, pastor of Our Lady of Tepeyac, was charged by prosecutors this morning with four felonies and a misdemeanor.

Garduno was in custody during this afternoon’s hearing, and a judge set his bail at $250,000 after denying a motion from Garduno’s attorney for reduced bail.

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Suspect in boy’s death wants his bail reduced

A man suspected in a failed hand-off of Mexican immigrants that left a 12-year-old boy dead is asking a judge to lower his bail.

Pedro Escobedo is scheduled for a bail hearing Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court. He is currently being held on $5,000,000 bail, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Prosecutors say they believe Escobedo, 46, was part of a smuggling ring and the driver of a white Ford Explorer who motioned toward a small group of men in a restaurant parking lot in the Cajon Pass in December 2006. Something went wrong, and a Nissan Maxima sped out of the lot followed by the Explorer, witnesses told authorities

The boy, Gabriel Garcia, was in the passenger seat of the Maxima, as the two vehicles sped southbound on the 15 Freeway in a 45-mile car chase. Witnesses say gunshots were fired from the Explorer.

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Hearing set for Redlands landlady in 1994 death

A Redlands woman who is accused of killing of teenage mother in 1994 will get to hear some of the evidence against her at a hearing Thursday.

A preliminary hearing is set for 52-year-old Seferina Marquez Ponce in San Bernardino Superior Court, according to court records. Lawyers in the case announced their readiness for the hearing at a court appearance Monday.

Redlands police arrested Ponce in connection with the disappearance of 18-year-old Sarah Hernandez Reyes, who lived on the Ponce’s property and whose family reported her missing Oct. 4, 1994. She was charged with one count of murder.

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