|Pastor Pleads Not Guilty to Charges
By Will Bigham
December 31, 2009
Garduno accused of selling drugs out of church
RIVERSIDE - Prosecutors charged a pastor Thursday with four felonies and a misdemeanor for allegedly selling narcotics out of his Home Gardens church and possessing a stolen pistol.
Anthony Garduno, 51, pastor of Our Lady of Tepeyac, pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday afternoon in Riverside Superior Court.
A judge set bail for Garduno at $250,000 after denying a request for reduced bail from Garduno's court- appointed attorney, according to online court records.
Garduno, a self-identified bishop in a small offshoot of the Roman Catholic church, was arrested Tuesday after Riverside County sheriff's investigators searched his Magnolia Avenue church and found methamphetamines, a stolen pistol, and evidence of possible sexual crimes against children.
Last week, a former parishioner told sheriff's investigators that Garduno sexually assaulted him about four years ago, when the man was 17.
Investigators obtained a warrant to search Garduno's church after presenting the man's accusations to a judge.
When investigators searched the church, they found pills believed to be the date-rape drug GHB, which was possibly used by Garduno in sexual assaults, a sheriff's sergeant said Wednesday.
Tests must be performed on the pills before they can be confirmed as GHB, the sheriff's sergeant said.
Sheriff's investigators have urged potential sexual assault victims of Garduno to contact them at 951-955-2600.
Garduno was formerly a Roman Catholic priest, but he left the church about a decade ago following allegations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with a male parishioner, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino said in September.
"I believe it was for inappropriate contact with a parishioner, or an attempt to do so," said spokesman John Andrews. "It was an adult, somebody I think in a marriage-preparation class."
Garduno said in an interview last month that in addition to overseeing his Home Gardens church, his duties as a bishop include oversight of a church in Ontario that has its own pastor.
On Sept. 15, Garduno was shot several times during an attempted robbery at his church. Garduno said last month that he still had a bullet lodged in his right arm from the incident.
The five men allegedly responsible for the robbery are also accused of holding up five diners the day of the shooting.
Investigators initially believed Garduno's church was randomly targeted because of its proximity to a diner, said sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.
But in light of Garduno's new drug charges investigators are reassessing their original theory, and are examining whether the robbers were targeting the church for drugs and cash, Gutierrez said.
"Where there is drugs there's usually cash," Gutierrez said.
The five alleged robbers are set to stand trial in Riverside Superior Court on Monday for the attempted murder of Garduno and several additional felonies.
The defendants include Pomona residents Timothy Jacquemain, 18, Jacob Bushow, 19, and Andrew Swindle, 23; Chino resident Anthony Coleman, 21; and Perris resident Willis Bagley, 38.
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