RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Pastor Geronimo Aguilar has temporarily stepped down from his positions as President of the Board and Pastor at the Richmond Outreach Center due to child sexual abuse charges.
The move was announced in a statement from the ROC's Board of Directors on the church's website Thursday afternoon.
"While we believe the accusations against him to be completely untrue and unfounded, we have accepted his request for a temporary leave of absence," the statement said. "Considering the severity of the charges, he feels and we sympathize that his family and these legal matters deserve his full attention."
The board voted to give Aguilar a paid leave of absence, according to the statement. The ROC's Executive Team will make day-to-day operational decisions and an outside, interim pastor will fill Aguilar's role.
Some Richmond faith leaders called for Aguilar to step down after prosecutors in Texas charged Aguilar with seven felony counts in two child sex abuse cases. The cases involve claims by two women dating back to 1996. Four of the counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child under 14, are first degree felonies that could carry life in prison.
Aguilar is expected to be extradited to Texas Thursday to face the charges. He surrendered to U.S. Marshals at his Richmond home Tuesday afternoon. Texas police charged him with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 stemming from a complaint made in 2007 by two sisters in Anaheim, California. The women are now in their 20s, but were underage at the time of the alleged incidents. The alleged crimes date back 17 years, according to sources.
Aguilar's attorney says his client is innocent.
Aguilar founded the Richmond Outreach Center in 2001. It quickly caught on and was even named one of the fastest growing churches in America. The ROC outgrew its Warwick Road space in 2008 and moved into a new home. Finished in 2009, the church says 11,000 worship here each week.