Minister accused of molestation lived in Carson

A South Carolina pastor, accused of taping sexual acts with several children in his ministry, once headed an Hispanic ministry in Carson City.

Rev. Fernando Garcia, 42, was arrested May 10 after an 8-year-old boy told his mother he was molested. The ensuing investigation allegedly revealed dozens of videotapes, many of which were locked in his office at the Abbeville Baptist Association in Greenwood, S.C.

Before moving east in 1998, Garcia headed the Carson City Hispanic ministry Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana. The group meets in the First Baptist Church on Mountain Drive.

As Greenwood police have developed a case with at least 44 charges related to alleged videotaping of molestation of 14 children between the ages of 5 and 13, they have advised Carson authorities of Garcia's link to the area.

No local cases have developed, said Chief Sheriff's Deputy Scott Burau. "We have only received tentative information of his presence in Carson City," he said.

Tom Bacon, director of church resources for the Nevada Baptist Convention, said Garcia was pastor from early 1994 to November 1998. The post is now held by Antonio Torres.

"It appeared to be a job opportunity and everybody accepted it," Bacon said of Garcia's move east. "He came here with a solid reference. None of this ever surfaced while he was in Nevada."

In fact, in both ministries Garcia was respected as a vocal participant in community and church events. In Carson City he hosted concerts at Mills Park, Bacon said. "He had a singing talent."

Bacon said he has not questioned members of the ministry about possible related cases in Carson City.

"At the appropriate time, if it surfaces, then it must be investigated," he said. "My concern is for the church."

Garcia was recruited to Greenwood by Baptist convention director Wallace Hughes. Since Garcia's arrest and during the continuing growth in the scope of the case, South Carolina Baptists, have been in a state of shock, he said.

"It was the most devastating thing we ever faced," he said. "I'm the one who brought him here. He was respected."

Garcia is being held on $4 million bail as investigators continue to use yearbook pictures to identify boys and girls on the confiscated tapes. The encounters reportedly took place at his office at Abbeville Baptist Association and at East End Elementary School. Similar in size to Carson City, Greenwood has a countywide population of 65,000.

Garcia is also married with two teenage children. According to reports, he has been cooperative with authorities, hoping the tapes will not have to be shown in a courtroom. He has issued a public apology through his lawyer Steve Welch.

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