Bay Area pastor pleads not guilty to child sex abuse, kidnapping charges

KGO-TV, ABC-7 [San Francisco CA]

January 18, 2024

By Dan Noyes

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) — A Richmond pastor accused of sexual abuse and kidnapping involving four young victims pleaded not guilty in Contra Costa County court on Wednesday,

Victor Hernandez-Pineda, 53, remains in jail on $10 million bail. His next hearing is set for March.

Hernandez-Pineda faces 16 charges and investigators say there are at least four victims, and at least one is from his congregation.

This is an update. Previous report follows.

The pastor of an East Bay church for Central American immigrants had his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, facing 16 charges involving the sexual abuse of four victims.

The hearing was very quick, with the attorney for the pastor saying he needed more time to consider the evidence and speak with his client.

Pastor Victor Hernandez-Pineda appeared before a Contra Costa County judge for the first time, in the child sexual assault case against him.

An East Bay pastor is under arrest, charged with several counts of kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14.

Deputy District Attorney Greg Chiarella is the prosecutor on the case. “Any time that someone in a position of trust has apparently betrayed that trust, it is a very serious matter.”

The pastor’s attorney, Martin Caraves, asked for the arraignment to be continued to January and did not enter a plea on Hernandez’s behalf. “I am very new to the case,” he told us. “I just received the formal complaint in court today and I have received no evidence at all.”

The I-Team’s Dan Noyes first confronted the 53-year-old pastor of Iglesia Pentecostes Movimiento De Gloria in Richmond for our report last Friday.

Noyes: “Victor, I’m Dan Noyes from Channel 7. I need to talk to you. Would you do an interview with me, please?”

Lorena Hernandez, wife: “About what?”

Noyes “I’d like to talk to you about the accusations that young girls and young women are making against you of sexual abuse. Would you talk to me, please?”

The Catholic Diocese of Oakland has filed a motion to keep names of priests accused of child sex abuse confidential.

The 21-year-old daughter of a church elder told us, when she was 13, the pastor tried to convince her it was God’s will that they have sex.

Karen Cifuentes said, “He took me to a hotel near the school and at that moment I told him that I didn’t feel safe, I didn’t feel good and that we shouldn’t do it, but he made me do it.”

Police arrested Hernandez Friday, and prosecutors charged him with 16 criminal counts: several counts of forcible rape of child under 14, forcible rape of person over 14, lewd act upon child, and child molestation.

Also in court on Wednesday, the prosecution asked for protective orders – that the pastor stay away from the alleged victims, and not buy or possess firearms.

“As I believe you are aware, there is some information that this defendant may have access or have had access to firearms,” Greg Chiarella said.

A Marin County man was forced to confront his past, after his name appears on a list of clergy accused of child sexual abuse.

The I-Team showed the pastor’s assault weapon in their first report and the photograph he took of Karen Cifuentes holding it during the time she says he was sexually abusing her. Pastor Hernandez’s family attended the hearing but did not comment as they left, and two former members of the church approached Noyes.

Daniel Alfaro told us, “I’m a father of two daughters and members of the church, as well. We believe in God, you know. We can’t believe that something like that happened.”

“I saw your news,” said Gilmar Castro. “And I just want to come in person to say thank you because you’ve done a great job bringing this guy to the law.”

Richmond police are investigating new leads into more possible victims, so they could add additional charges, as this case moves forward.