NORWALK (CBSLA.com) — An associate pastor at a Norwalk church was being held on $2 million bail Thursday after he was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting female parishioners, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
Jorge Juan Castro, 53, was arrested Sept. 13 on six felony charges of rape, oral copulation and penetration by a foreign object.
Castro, who works as an associate pastor and counselor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church in Norwalk, is accused of sexually assaulting more than 20 women, between the ages of 18 and 39, from Oct. 2004 to Sept. 2012, officials said.
“During that counseling session, he would perform certain acts with them in the name of God,” Sgt. Al Garcia told KNX 1070. The acts took place both at the church, and at the victims’ homes, he added.
Many of the victims were Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants who detectives believe Castro preyed upon due to their vulnerability.
“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,” Sgt. Al Garcias said in a statement.
Authorities became aware of the crimes after numerous victims told a third party about the alleged assaults.
Castro, of Norwalk, is also an associate pastor at a church in Riverside County, however, there were no known victims there.
Anyone with information, as well as possible victims, should contact the LASD’s Special Victims Bureau detectives at (877)710-5273. Investigators will not ask victims about their legal status.