Church Leader Arrested in Drugs, Sex Abuse Probe

San Jose Mercury News
December 30, 2009

CORONA, Calif.—A Southern California church leader has been arrested on drug-related charges amid allegations that he drugged and sexually abused children, authorities said Wednesday.

Anthony Garduno, 51, was arrested Tuesday for investigation of possession of drugs and stolen property after investigators found evidence he was selling drugs from his church, said Riverside County Sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.

Authorities searched Garduno's Our Lady of Tepeyac church near Corona after a 21-year-old man claimed he had been sexually assaulted by the bishop when he was 17.

The man, whose name was not released, also accused Garduno of selling methamphetamines and assaulting other boys, Gutierrez said.

"We have evidence to believe there are many other victims in that community and that some of the victims may not even be aware because we believe they were possibly drugged," Gutierrez said Wednesday.

Gutierrez declined to reveal what evidence was found in the church.

Garduno was hospitalized following a shooting in the church courtyard in September that was allegedly part of a robbery attempt. Gutierrez said authorities now suspect thieves targeted Garduno because they believed he had drug money.

A message was left Wednesday at the church seeking comment.

Gutierrez said the church identifies itself as Catholic but is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

Earlier this year, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported that Garduno was a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who was accused of asking a man to strip during a pre-marriage counseling session in 1993.


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