Hollywood Church Leader Charged With Molesting Girl, 9: Broward Sheriff's Office

Maher Jair Ortega-Estevez, a volunteer leader at the Assembly of God Bethlehem Ministry, was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation, officials said.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Hollywood church leader was arrested Tuesday for allegedly molesting a 9-year-old girl in his congregation, and now deputies are trying to find other victims. NBC 6's Steve Litz reports. (Published Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013)

    A Hollywood church leader was arrested Tuesday for allegedly molesting a 9-year-old girl in his congregation, and now deputies are trying to find other victims.

    Maher Jair Ortega-Estevez, 29, was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation for the Oct. 6 incident that occurred at his Deerfield Beach Home, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

    Authorities say Ortega-Estevez, a volunteer leader at the Assembly of God Bethlehem Ministry's Hollywood congregation at 501 S. 21 Ave., invited the victim and her family to his house after a Sunday church event. While they were at the home, he fondled the 9-year-old in his bedroom, BSO said.

    "The suspect had placed the victim on his lap and at that time is when he fondled her," BSO Sgt. Aimee Alexander said.

    The victim told her parents about the molestation and Ortega-Estevez was later arrested.

    Ortega-Estevez, who ran bible studies and volunteered at the church's storefront, had been in a leadership position at the church for two years, according to the church's senior pastor.

    "He was someone that his family trusted and other people in the church trusted," Alexander said. "It is not unusual for suspects like this to take advantage of more than one child.

    BSO deputies are now looking for more victims. Anyone with information is urged to call BSO Sex Crimes Detective Michele McCardle at 954-321-4261 or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS (8477). To report child abuse, call Florida's child abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.

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