BRANDON — The pastor of a Spanish-language church in Brandon is facing sex crimes charges after authorities said he had inappropriate contact with three female parishioners, including two minors.
Francisco Rios, 44, the lead pastor at the Casa de Amor church on Windhorst Road in Brandon, was arrested early Friday on three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office began investigating Rios in August after two girls, ages 12 and 17, and a woman, 43, came forward alleging that Rios had touched them in an inappropriate manner on separate occasions, authorities said.
The 17-year-old said Rios touched her on about 15 different occasions, beginning in 2011, sheriff's officials said. He told the girl he loved her as a pastor and that she should not tell anyone about the touching because he could get in trouble, sheriff's officials said.
In April 2013, Rios touched the 43-year-old woman inappropriately, convincing her it was a way to cure a medical condition, authorities said.
The 12-year-old told deputies that Rios had touched her about twice a week over the course of a year, officials said.
The three talked with each other and discovered that they had each been victimized, authorities said. They then contacted the Sheriff's Office.
Following an investigation, charges were referred to the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, which obtained a warrant for Rios' arrest. He was held in jail Friday without bail.