The pastor of a Laguna Hills church was convicted Wednesday of molesting five boys—ranging in age from 9 to 15—in his congregation as 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. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 14.
Perez faces up to 330 years to life in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker. The minimum sentence would be 15 years to life, she 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.
During the trial, prosecutors said Perez took advantage of the boys under his authority, who were like altar boys.
"This case is about a violation of trust and innocence," Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker had told jurors in her opening statement.
"The defendant used that post to touch these boys sexually," she said.
However, Perez Perez's attorney, Case Barnett, said the accusations were the result of "misunderstandings" and that his 69-year-old client was actually giving the boys sex education and tips on hygiene.
Barnett attributed the criminal charges against his client to "public hysteria and police influence," claiming that investigators pressured the boys into allegations against Perez.
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Perez was arrested in September 2011 after a mother of a young boy who had recently slept over the pastor's Lake Forest home called police.
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Further investigation revealed four additional young boys who accused the pastor of touching them inappropriately.
—City News Service