Officials announce arrest of alleged Norwalk predator pastor

Jorge CastroSheriff’s officials Thursday announced the arrest of a Norwalk associate pastor accused of molesting as many as 20 female church members over the past eight years.
Jorge Juan Castro, 54, of Norwalk is charged with six felony counts in connection with the alleged sexual assaults of four women between ages 18 and 39 while he worked as an associate pastor and counselor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church, 11910 Alondra Boulevard, Sgt. Al Garcia of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau said.
The alleged crimes took place between 2004 and 2012, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.
He was placed on leave in April, immediately after 20 women came forward to report to a church official that they had been sexually assaulted by Castro, Garcia said.
“Multiple victims reported the sexual abuse to a church official, who in turn, reported it to us,” the sergeant said.
But only four of the women were willing to speak with detectives as of Thursday, Garcia said.
Castro’s alleged victims were primarily Spanish-speaking, undocumented immigrants, the sergeant said.  He was believed to have threatened them not to come forward.
“The suspect, after the assaults, threatened to have the them deported,” Garcia said. “He also threatened to subject them to public ridicule.”
Castro also worked as an associate pastor at an affiliated church, the Oasis Community Church in Moreno Valley, Garcia said. Authorities in Moreno Valley have been notified of the situation, however no victims from Riverside County have been identified, Garcia said.
After more than five months of investigation, deputies served an arrest warrant and took Castro without incident Sept. 13 at his Norwalk home, Garcia said.
Prosecutors charged him the same day with one count of rape, four counts of oral copulation by force and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales. The charges involve two victims, and the charged crimes occurred in January of 2004 and April of 2010.
“The criminal complaint includes a special allegation of multiple victims and states that the defendant committed the offenses by use of force, violence, duress, menace and fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury,” Davila-Morales said.
Castro started working for the Las Buenas Nuevas church in Norwalk shortly after immigrating to the U.S. from Argentina in 2004, Garcia said.
Garcia said Castro took advantage of his position of authority to sexually assault the women. Some of the alleged attacks took place as he visited the women.
“Some crimes occurred at the church, some crimes occurred at the victims’ homes,” Garcia said.
Detective encouraged the 16 other alleged victims already identified, as well as any others who may not have come forward, to cooperate with investigators to bring Castro to justice.
“We’re here to tell the victims, and other potential victims, that law enforcement is here to help them. We will not report (them to) immigration. We’re not going to deport them.” Garcia said. “We want to help them deal with these heinous crimes and prevent him from doing it again.”
Garcia said Castro had no criminal history in the United States that investigators were aware of, however he did not know if he had a record in Argentina.
Castro was initially scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court for an arraignment the day of his arrest, however the hearing was continued to Oct. 16, Davila-Morales said.
According to county booking records, Castro was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

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