Brandon pastor arrested for lewd acts on church members

Abuse dates back two years, deputies said

The pastor of a Brandon church has been arrested on charges of sexually molesting three people, including two underage girls. Francisco Rios, 44, of the Case De Amor church was taken into custody by Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies at his home.

The victims, all females aged 12, 17, and 43, claimed they were touched inappropriately by Rios, with some of the cases dating back to 2011.

The adult victim said Rios could cure her medical condition by touching her, while the younger victims said the pastor told them not to tell anyone because he could get into trouble.

"I was really shocked," said Diane Staggs, the owner of a hair salon just a couple of doors down from the church.  "Because he is a pastor and a man of God, he his held at a higher accountability."

But the fact that Rios was a pastor may be the reason he was able to take advantage of his congregation members, according to investigators.  

Rios was taken to jail and held without bond.

Debbie Gorslene, who often saw Rios when she came into work at the strip mall where the church is located, was disgusted with the accusations, especially after hearing that children were involved.

"It's just not something you want to hear," Gorslene said. "People of the cloth are supposed to protect, and you're supposed to be able to go to them with any of your problems."

Detectives said that they were contacted after the three victims got together and shared with each other their abuse experience.  

Sheriff's officials said their investigation into the case is continuing as they look into the possibility the three victims aren't the only ones.

"Potentially there could be other victims out there," said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. "If there's anyone who's had an encounter with Mr. Rios, we encourage them to contact the sheriff's office."

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