FRESNO, CA (KMJ)- A Fresno Anglican Church priest is arrested for sexual misconduct crimes against his followers.
Fresno police are aware of 22 potential victims — mostly undocumented Hispanic male adults and one female, but they believe Jesus Antonio Serna could have hundreds more.
Culminating a thirteen-month investigation, Serna was arrested at his office in Fresno at 7:30am, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019.
Serna told police he would tell his victims they were under the curse of witchcraft, and needed to be rid of it with a ritual he learned of in India.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Serna would then undress the victims, have them lie down on a recliner or a table and rub oil on the victim’s body telling them it was sacred oil and then masturbate the victims.
Serna led them to believe the ritual was spiritually or physically necessary for them to be healed.
All of the victims were members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 4147 E. Dakota, or at his office at 1300 East Shaw, which police say was more isolated.
The Bishop of the Anglican Church in Fresno learned of the crimes in October of 2017, when eighteen parishioners said they’d been victimized by Serna but were afraid to report the crimes to law enforcement..
Bishop Eric Menees confronted Serna on November 24th, and went to the Fresno Police in January of 2018, with the three victims.
Since that time, Chief Dyer’s been made award of 22 people assaulted but due to the reluctance of the victims to make statements, police could not take action.
After Bishop Menees kicked Serna out of the church, the disgraced priest later opened up his own Padre Dia Ministry at Holy Spirit Church, located at 4277 N. West Boulevard (not on Friant).
Chief Dyer during the press conference on Monday that the abuse may have been going on among his followers for years prior to 2014, during the time he was a priest in Yakima, Washington from 1997 to 2006.
Chief Dyer believes there are victims there, as well.
District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp is encouraging the victims to come forward, and said undocumented immigrants who have been abused by Serna can apply for a U Visa that prevents them from deportation, with assistance from the non-profit Centro La Familia.
If convicted, Serna could face 11 years and 6 months for the crimes, but DA Smittcamp said that time behind bars could be “full term, consecutive terms, hundred of years” if more victims come forward.
DA Smittcamp believes there could be “many more out there,” and hopes that they can make a more solid case against Serna.
The Fresno County District Attorney’s office filed eight felony and two misdemeanor charges against Serna on Friday.
Chief Dyer said Serna bailed out early Monday morning.
Listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern.