DEERFIELD BEACH (CBSMiami) – Broward Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Deerfield Beach church leader for allegedly molesting a nine-year-old girl in his congregation.

BSO deputies arrested Maher Jair Ortega-Estevez Tuesday for the alleged molestation which BSO said happened at Ortega-Estevez’s home on the 500 block of Trace Circle in Deerfield Beach.

Ortega-Estevez worked as a volunteer leader at the Assembly of God Bethlehem Ministry and led the church’s Hollywood congregation.

BSO said Ortega-Estevez invited the girl and her family to his Deerfield Beach home on October 6 and it was during that visit that Ortega-Estevez fondled the 9-year-old victim in his bedroom.  “After church they gathered at his home in Deerfield, many families were here, not just this family,” explained BSO Detective Aimee Alexander, “and at that point that’s when he took advantage of this very young girl.”

The girl told her parents who then notified police along with church leaders.  Pastor Joel Costa said he was shocked when he learned of the arrest.  There had never been any trouble with Ortega.

“His conduct between us was always clean, very nice person, very serious, a man of integrity,” said Pastor Costa.  Costa said now, the church will concentrate on the young girl and her needs.

“Our big concern here is the child.  If this really happened, how is this child living, for the good will of the child, this is our concern,” said Costa.

Ortega-Estevez was arrested without incident and charged with lewd or lascivious molestation.

BSO detectives believe there may be more victims and said anyone with information can call BSO’s Sex Crime Unite at 954-321-4261 or Crime Stoppers of Broward County at 954-493-TIPS (8477).

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