SANTA ANA (CBS) — The pastor of a Laguna Hills church was convicted Wednesday of 26 felonies for molesting five boys in his congregation when they slept over or visited his Lake Forest apartment.
Oscar D. Perez Perez was convicted of 22 counts of lewd acts on a child younger than 14 and four counts of lewd acts on a child. The jury, which deliberated for about an hour and 45 minutes, also found true 22 sentence enhancement allegations for multiple victims.
Perez’s attorney claimed the result of “misunderstandings,” and that this 69-year-old client was actually giving the boys sex education and tips on hygiene.
One parent gave Perez permission to touch the genitals of an 11-year-old as part of a sex education and hygiene demonstration before two other members of the congregation, Perez’s attorney said.
Perez claims to be a bishop and pastor of Iglesia Antigua, or Old Church, which at the time of his arrest rented space at St. George’s Episcopalian Church in Laguna Hills. Perez’s church is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church or the Diocese of Orange.
The church is largely disbanded, with several members who only get together for Bible study now, Perez’s attorney Case Barnett said.
The allegations surfaced after an 11-year-old boy went to Perez’s apartment last July to care for him at his request, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker said. Perez had been affectionate with the boy previously, but “this time the defendant kissed him…on the lips, open mouth, with tongue,” she said.
Perez faces up to 330 years to life in prison. The minimum sentence would be 15 years to life.
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