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Pastor accused of sexually exploiting teen in congregation

Pastor accused of sexually exploiting teen in congregation

(Salt Lake County Jail)


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Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes

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SOUTH SALT LAKE — An Oregon pastor who came to Utah in order to open a new church has been accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in his congregation.

South Salt Lake police arrested Leonel Rocha-Pereda, 66, for investigation of sexual abuse of a minor, enticing a minor over the Internet and sexual exploitation of a minor.

The pastor from Salem, Oregon, reportedly began exchanging emails with the 15-year-old girl in July and came to stay with her family in September when he traveled to Utah to establish a new church in the Salt Lake area, according to police.

Rocha-Pereda reportedly gave the girl a cellphone, which he instructed her not to tell her parents about, to exchange sexually explicit messages and photos. He is also accused of touching the girl inappropriately in her home and at an area shopping mall.

The girl's parents notified police, who interviewed Rocha-Pereda and arrested him Wednesday. Rocha-Pereda denies touching the girl inappropriately, according to police.

Rocha-Pereda was booked into Salt Lake County Jail with bail set at $56,000.

Police are asking anyone who may know of additional victims to call South Salt Lake police at 801-8400-4000.

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McKenzie Romero

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