LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – An undercover San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy last week arrested the Rev. Geronimo Enrique Cuevas, 52, for lewd conduct near a secluded beach that attracts nude bathers.
Undercover deputies were stationed at Pirate’s Cove, south of San Luis Obispo, because the area has a history of sexual solicitation problems. Last Wednesday, Cuevas allegedly grabbed the crotch area of a male undercover officer. The priest was arrested and booked on two misdemeanor charges: suspicion of sexual battery and soliciting a lewd act.
When arrested, Cuevas told deputies that he was from Las Vegas and unemployed. Though he owns an apartment in Las Vegas, Cuevas was associate pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Nipomo and previously was pastor of St. Mary of the Nativity Church in East Salinas. (A July 23 report published by The Californian.com quoted a St. Mary’s parishioner who said Cuevas was there until he moved to Las Vegas two years ago.)
The Diocese of Monterey issued a statement on July 20 saying that Bishop Richard Garcia has placed Cuevas on administrative leave and has removed his faculties “pending outcome of the criminal investigation.”
According the July 22 Monterey County Herald, Cuevas was arrested because he was carrying no identification. If he had carried identification, sheriff’s deputies said, he would have been cited and released. The priest is free on $2,000 bail.
Parishioners at St. Joseph’s were surprised by the news of Cuevas’ arrest, said the July 21 San Luis Obispo Tribune. “He was, from what I thought, a devout priest,” one parishioner, Rachel Rosas, told the newspaper.
The April 25, 2000 minutes of the Salinas City Council indicate Cuevas’ interest in gang problems. Listed in the minutes as pastor of St. Mary of the Nativity Church in Salinas, Cuevas spoke in favor of a restorative justice program the sheriff’s department was contemplating. According to the minutes, Cuevas “has been walking, eating, visiting, praying, counseling, and challenging gang members. Salinas must change from talkers to doers.”