St. Peter's suspends employee allegedly shown in social media post
Last updated 11/26/2019 at 12:09pm
A post made on social media Saturday, Nov. 23, alleged that a staff member of a local church had engaged in inappropriate conversations with what was portrayed to be a 14-year-old boy and later went to meet the boy but was instead met by a regional vigilante group that works in anonymity to catch sexual predators and expose them on the internet.
Late Saturday afternoon, Kristine Almada, a pastoral associate with St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Parish in Fallbrook, announced in a statement that the church has suspended youth ministry coordinator Toney Renteria, a Fallbrook resident, as investigations begin into the allegations.
"Toney Renteria has been suspended from his position as youth ministry coordinator, effective immediately," according to the church's statement. "St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Parish is working closely with the appropriate parties, including law enforcement and the Diocese of San Diego, to investigate these allegations further. We are following the policy of the Diocese of San Diego and are taking the allegations against Mr. Renteria seriously. It is our responsibility to protect those entrusted in our care, especially children and youth.
"We are encouraging anyone who would like to report any inappropriate behavior by their peers and/or adults," the statement continued. "They can do this confidentially by contacting our parish office at (760) 689-6200 or the Diocese of San Diego by phone: (858) 490-8353 or via email at [email protected]."
On Monday afternoon, Dale Flamand San Diego Police Detective Sergeant of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force confirmed that a criminal investigation into the allegations has begun.
The post by a user named "Tricky Hussles" shows screenshots of a chat session allegedly between Renteria and another person posing as a 14-year-old boy on the dating app, Grindr.
During the chat, it is apparent that both sides of the conversation understand that one of the users is age 14 and that another 14-year-old boy would be included in what appeared to be a planned forthcoming sexual encounter.
The screenshots of the chat do not include names on each side of the conversation.
The post also shows a video of the group of men confronting and questioning the person as they attempt to hide their face and walk away from the group toward their car at a CVS located near Vista and Oceanside.
Upon contacting "Tricky Hussles" via Facebook, the unidentified user, who said they live in Fallbrook, confirmed the sting was conducted by the group, CC Unit, or Creep Catchers Unit.
The group said in the "About" section of its Facebook page that it is "A Movement from San Diego California. Keeping the minors and children safe. Pushing For more stricter Punishments for Pedophiles and Predators."
In the post, "Tricky Hussles" indicated that the police were not involved when asked if the authorities had been contacted.
"Have not, the sheriff's office has yet to do anything with any of these guys caught," "Tricky Hussles" said. "It's up to our community to protect our children's now."
A request for information about an investigation into the incident by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department has yet to be returned.
An internet search revealed that Renteria has worked for at least four other churches in the youth ministry field before coming to the Fallbrook parish in August 2018.
According to a newsletter published in 2016 by St. Louise de Marillac Church in Covina, Renteria "started working in youth ministry at Visitation Church in Los Angeles. He found a salaried position at St. Hilary's Church in Pico Rivera for six years where he was the youth ministry and confirmation director."
The newsletter showed that he "was the youth coordinator at Sacred Heart Parish in Palm Desert for the last year."
This is a breaking news story that will be updated when more information becomes available.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected].