Ex-Yuma Priest Nabbed on Sex Abuse Charges

By Nicole E. Squibbs
Yuma Sun [Yuma AZ]
June 4, 2007

A former Yuma priest wanted on suspicion of sexual abuse of two minors is in custody in Spain while the Arizona Attorney General's Office seeks his extradition to face prosecution. Spanish National Police arrested Father Jorge Washington Cordova Hernandez on Sunday in Guadarrama, Spain, on sex abuse charges. He was attending a seminar there, according to Attorney General Terry Goddard.

In 2005, Cordova, 51, was charged with sexually abusing two teenage girls during his assignment at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Yuma from 1988 to 1991. He was indicted on 10 counts of sexual abuse, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Cordova fled to Ecuador, where his home diocese is located, according to a news release from Goddard's office.

"In this case, he actually had a Web site to advertise he was going to hold a seminar in Spain," AG spokeswoman Andrea Esquer told The Sun. "Spanish police did surveillance, and then were able to arrest him."

Esquer said Goddard's office has filed a provisional arrest warrant with Spanish authorities on behalf of the Yuma County Attorney's Office after receiving information on Cordova's location.

He was a presenter at a seminar being held at the Fray Luis of Leon cultural residential complex in Guadarrama, near Madrid, the release said.

Cordova was arrested when he came out of the facility where the seminar was being held under the pretext that a local television crew wanted an interview with him. The Spanish National Police will hold Cordova until the extradition process is completed, the release said.

Esquer said the ruse was necessary because Cordova was in a facility where access was restricted to invitees.

She said the AG's office will present a petition for extradition to the Spanish government for their consideration. This is a formal request to send him back that outlines his charges and penalties.

"It's not his home country, so we feel very confident he will come back," Esquer said. She said the U.S. Marshals Service would likely transport him to the U.S.

Assistant Attorney General Frank Collins and Special Investigator Rene Luna are handling the extradition process. Cordova's arrest was the result of a joint investigation with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, Yuma Police Department and Yuma County Attorney.

Nicole Squibbs 539-6855:


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