FREMONT (KRON) — In the East Bay, a Catholic priest has been arrested at his Fremont church and is being held in jail tonight, facing 30 counts of child sexual abuse.
Father Hector David Mendoza-Vela was booked into the Dublin’s Santa Rita Jail on 30 felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child between the ages of 14 and 15.
The Alameda County sheriff says the male teen victim had been a parishioner at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in San Lorenzo, which was Vela’s first assignment after being ordained in 2013.
The alleged abuse happened over a span of 18 months between 2016 and 2018 with most of the incidents taking place in a private home in an unincorporated area of the county.
“People in their good nature often except the church and the clergy into their life,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. “And in this particular case we believe Father Vela took advantage of those relationships and that he used those relationships to pray on this particular child.”
Father Vela was transferred to Corpus Christi Church in Fremont in 2016.
The sheriff’s department says they have been in contact with Fremont police and the diocese and are so far unaware of any other victims.
“We’re thankful to our victim because it takes a tremendous amount of courage for a victim to come forward and disclose this type of information,” said Sgt. Kelly “That being said, that courage often helps other people who are child victims to come forward, so we’re asking people if they are a victim, in this particular case with this particular suspect, to come forward.”
The Oakland Diocese placed Vela on leave after learning of his arrest and notified their parishioners about the allegations during masses at both churches Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Vela is being held on $900,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.
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