Laguna Hills, CA – Any good works performed by the leader of a small Laguna Hills congregation, were "wiped out" by the sexual assaults he committed against five young boys he was grooming as "ministers," a California judge said Friday.
Oscar D. Perez, 69, was sentenced to 330 years in state prison, the maximum possible, for molesting boys who trusted him implicitly—in some cases more than their own family, Orange County Judge Steven Bromberg said at the sentencing.
"You are a predator," Bromberg told the pedophile priest through a Spanish-language translator in the Santa Ana courtoom. "You are dangerous, and whatever can be accomplished to keep you in prison" should be done.
Earlier, a member of Perez's congregation praised the minister, choking up as he spoke. Gabriel Salgado said Perez helped families stay together during tough times and kept young members of the congregation out of trouble.
"If it wasn't for him, it would have been me in [court]," said Salgado, who has known Perez 14 years and likened him to a grandfather.
Even in prison, Perez will continue to help others and do good, Salgado predicted.
The judge disagreed, saying "the defendant is not a good person" and his actions were "despicable."
If anything, the trial merely scratched the surface of Perez's transgressions, the judge said. "These were not isolated incidents," Bromberg said, referring to "disturbing and graphic" evidence presented during the case. "This conduct ... was pervasive."
After the sentencing, prosecutor Jennifer Walker said she was proud of the young victims who gave testimony in court for their courage during the trial. "Now they've had their day of justice," she said.
During the trial, Perez's attorney, Case Barnett, blamed the accusations on "misunderstandings" and said his client was actually giving the boys sex education and tips on hygiene.
Barnett attributed the criminal charges to "public hysteria and police influence," claiming investigators pressured the boys into allegations against Perez.
Perez claimed to be a bishop at 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. His church has largely disbanded, with only some members who get together for Bible study, Barnett said.
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Perez was arrested in September 2011 after the mother of a young boy who had recently slept over at the pastor's Lake Forest home called police.
- Read more about the initial arrest:
After Perez was convicted, the jury foreman wrote an article for Patch describing the trial.
- Read the jury foreman's account: