Church youth leader sexually assaults 2 underage girls, luring one of them into church bathroom during a service
A youth leader working at a Santa Ana church has been accused of sexually assaulting two minors, with one of the alleged attacks taking place during a church service.
Law enforcement in Santa Ana arrested 22-year-old Jesse Francisco Hernandez Perez, a youth leader at Iglesia De Restauracion Church, on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, according to an ABC7 report.
On two separate occasions in March, police alleged that Perez sexually assaulted two girls aged 11 and 14 respectively.
Authorities said the first alleged incident occurred on March 5, when he lured an 11-year-old girl into a church bathroom by sending her texts while a church service was going on. However, the innocent victim chose not to report the incident at the time and continued to attend church.
Perez did not take time to repeat his offense. The second alleged incident, which also took place in March, occurred when he was running a youth program out of his home. According to police, he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl from Anaheim, who later reported the incident to authorities.
Sgt. Anthony Bertagna said the alleged assault in the bathroom was "extremely disturbing."
"Apparently, there are multiple levels to this church," he said, "and one day a week the men and the women are supposedly separated and he took advantage of that."
One woman, who is a regular at the church, told CBS2, "He looks familiar. There’s always a big group here with a lot of kids. And they always do food events, where they give food to people who come here, to the church. And I just hope there are no more victims. I’m praying for the little girl, that she can move on."
The 14-year-old alleged victim reportedly told sex crimes detectives she was assaulted last month during a youth service at the Perez's Anaheim residence.
Authorities added that the pastor of the church has been extremely helpful in the case during their investigation. Furthermore, it appears that he had no idea of the alleged assaults.
Perez's bail has been set at $100,000. According to reports, he had been a member of the church for over three years and played an active part in their music program.
Nonetheless, there may be more victims, according to Santa Ana police. They have urged anyone with viable information to get in touch with Detective Corporal Johanna Perez at 714-245-8351 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or provide anonymous information to OC Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.